Florida has two additional secret weapons in the fight against arson crimes this holiday season and year-around. They each have four legs and super noses!
The new members of the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Offices have a nose up on arsonists and uses those skills to sniff out the causes of fires. These special accelerant detection investigators are K9 Ruthie and her partner Detective Michael Douglas and K-9 Rico and Detective Cody McIntyre.
The program is funded by State Farm and is available to fire departments and law enforcement agencies across the United States. Since its beginning in 1993, the State Farm Arson Dog Program has placed more than 425 dogs in 46 states, three Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia. All accelerant detection canine teams are trained by Maine Specialty Dogs and certified by the Maine State Police.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 280,000 intentional fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year, with associated annual losses of 420 civilian deaths, 1,360 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage. The actual number of arson fires and the amount of property damage is likely much higher, as arson is an underreported crime. Arson dogs played a crucial role in determining the cause of many of these fires.
Accelerant detection canines, commonly called arson dogs, are trained law enforcement dogs that are used to sniff out evidence at fire scenes. These canine heroes work alongside their human handler, identifying the cause of home or business fires, assisting in cold crime cases, and uncovering potential evidence in homicides.
“Thank you, State Farm for your commitment to fight fraud in Florida which drives up insurance rates for hard-working men and women in our state” said Jimmy Patronis, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO). “The State Farm Arson Dog Program continues to be an outstanding resource for our arson detectives as they work to hold fraudsters accountable.”
Florida now has 7 arson dogs. This is the most arson dogs of any state in the nation.
“We feel law enforcement officials should have every tool possible to combat this costly and sometimes deadly crime,” said Patty Jackson, Vice President of Agency and Sales for State Farm. “These K-9s enable investigators to do their job more efficiently and effectively.”
The new team of K9 Ruthie and Detective Douglas will investigate fires throughout the Tampa area. K9 Ruthie is a 2 year-old female Goldador (Golden retriever x Labrador retriever). This is the second arson dog for Detective Douglas. He previously worked with K9 Misty from 2007 – 2014.
K9 Rico and Detective McIntyre will combat arson in the Florida Panhandle, including Tallahassee. K9 Rico is a 2 ½ year old male Goldador (Golden retriever x Labrador retriever). Both dogs were raised by Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Florida.
For more information about the Arson Dog Program visit www.arsondog.org.