EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – These dogs are not your regular pups, but specifically chosen and trained to become a part of Border Patrol’s K9 Unit.
“We utilize them to detect and apprehend concealed humans and they’re trained in the five odors in narcotics which would include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy and marijuana,” K9 handler and instructor agent Michael Winters explained.
They are trained at the El Paso Border Patrol Canine Training Facility that has been operating since 1986.
The dogs are faced there with different environments and learn how to search through residential houses, warehouses and vehicles to alert of any suspicious activity.
“Not only do they help the agents out in the field, they also do the humanitarian part of our job and locate the migrants out there that are lost and provide first aid as needed,” supervisory agent Sergio Reyes said.
The canines are then paired up with their handlers who first go through their own separate training.
The K9 units are then sent to Border Patrol checkpoints to assist with migration checks.
The handler and the K9 do primary inspections as vehicles approach the checkpoint. That is when the K9 will first alert the agent of any suspicious scents.
“If a canine alerts a vehicle they will be sent to the inspectionary area so they can be further examined,” agent Winters explained.
He recalled one routine immigration check that turned into a drug-bust of over $2 million worth of methamphetamines.
This is just one of the examples he remembers where K9s have shown how useful their skills are to Border Patrol, but also other federal and local agencies.
Canines at the El Paso training facility are also trained to work with the El Paso Sheriff’s Department, El Paso Police Department and some other federal agencies.
They assist the agencies with conducting warrant services and finding human remains.
Agent Winters also warned about approaching a K9 at the checkpoint and urged caution.
“Please be mindful of the speed at which you are approaching at the checkpoint and please don’t put your hand out and try to touch them. They are service animals so we ask you please be aware of them,” he explained.
After five to six years the canines are ready for retirement and get to spend the rest of their days with their handler and their family.
“ A lot of people will look at them and they think they are just a tool they are just a tool we work with, but at the end of the day they are family,” agent Winters said.
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