Joanie’s nose: Picayune Fire Dept. K-9 recertifies
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Last week, Joanie, Picayune Fire Department’s accelerant detection canine, attended school in Baton Rouge for her annual recertification.
Since 2008 Joanie has been assisting firefighters narrowing down the cause of structure fires, Picayune Fire Marshal Pat Weaver said.
The department’s acquisition and training of Joanie was made possible by a grant through State Farm’s Arson Dog program, he said.
According to a State Farm release, arson is one of the most expensive claims in the United States. Billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of lives are lost as a result of fires set by arsonists.
Last week, for three days, about 40 arson dogs, along with their trainers, performed live demonstrations detecting accelerants such as gasoline, kerosene and lighter fluid at a contrived fire scene, the release states. The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office hosted the event this year.
Since the beginning of the arson program in 1993, State Farm has paid to train more than 350 dog and handler teams in 44 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, the release states.
Joanie first received training from Maine Specialty Dogs, under the guidance of the Maine State Criminal Justice Academy, Weaver said. She is also certified by the Maine State Police.
Weaver said Joanie, who is a Labrador retriever, is a good asset for fire investigations.
“After a fire is put out, if it looks like arson, I run her through the house,” he said. “When she hits a spot, she paws at it and sits down. Then, I place a marker. After we’ve gone through the entire structure, I take her back through to make sure she’s got the scent. Then I take samples, which must be inspected by the Mississippi Crime Lab.”
Weaver said Joanie has sniffed out the source for several cases he’s worked in Picayune and with the state fire marshal’s office.
Joanie also tags along when Weaver discusses fire prevention with children.
“The kids just love her,” he said.
Weaver said State Farm utilizes Labradors and Goldadors, a golden retriever and Labrador mix, for their program. They procure the canines from shelters or seeing eye dog schools and put them in the arson program, he said.
When Joanie’s eating, she’s training, Weaver said. Once she’s detected the drop of accelerant Weaver plants, she is fed, so she trains every day.
Local veterinarian Dr. Kevin Smith provides complimentary services for Joanie, Weaver said.
Joanie stays with Weaver all the time, he said.
“She’s very laid back and obedient,” he said. “She loves to play and swim. There’s not a mean bone in her body. She’s been and still is a great dog.”