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2 shelter dogs become Clay County K-9 officers

The Clay County Sheriff's Department on Monday welcomed two four-legged deputies -- Sarah and Phantom. (Photo credit: Clay County Sheriff's Office)

The Clay County Sheriff's Department on Monday welcomed two four-legged deputies -- Sarah and Phantom.

The two pit bulls and their partners were in Texas recently, learning the ins and outs of narcotics detection.

Deputy Chris Harper and his new K-9 Sarah and Investigator Heath Woodard and his new K-9 Phantom have been certified by Universal K9 and American Working Dog Association in the detection of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (also known as ecstasy).

K-9 Sarah and K-9 Phantom came to the department by way of a grant from the Animal Farm Foundation of New York and Universal K9 of San Antonio Texas. The two foundations have taken on the mission to show departments do not need to spend $15-$20,000 for a pure breed German shepherd or Belgian malinois to search and find illegal drugs. At the same time, they are giving dogs destined for lives in a shelter or euthanasia second chances.

Sarah is a pit bull and Phantom a Pit bull-Boston terrier mix. Phantom was rescued from a shelter in Texas, and Sarah was rescued from a shelter in New York.

"Phantom and Sarah are only single purpose dogs, meaning they are only trained in narcotics detection," a news release from the sheriff's office said. "They are not and never will be trained in criminal apprehension or bite work. No pit bull/pit bull mixes granted by Animal Farm Foundation and Universal K9 will ever be trained in bite work or criminal apprehension. They want to show the country and the world the loving and caring nature that most of us have experienced with our pit bull’s and show that the pound puppies have what it takes to go up against and sometimes exceed their expensive pure breed cousins."

Cost is a big difference in pure breed versus shelter K-9s. The Sarah and Phantom were free, and the training was free, all provided by grants from Animal Farm Foundation and Universal K9. The hotel, per diem, collars, leashes, harnesses, food, crates and other K-9 expenses were paid for by drug seizure money.

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