Pit bull trained as K-9 police officer, a first in Ohio

K9 Leonard

SUNBURY, OH (WCMH) — A local dog that faced being euthanized is now a police K-9 and about to hit the streets to sniff out illegal drugs.

His name is Leonard, and he is Ohio’s first pit bull police officer about to embark on a career as a narcotics K-9. He is also the first K-9 for Clay Township on the western edge of Lake Erie, near the community of Genoa.

Clay Township Police Chief Terry Mitchell is Leonard’s handler and both are finishing their last day of training at Storm Dog Tactical in Sunbury.

“Search… search,” Chief Mitchell commanded Leonard as they practiced searching a vehicle.

Leonard immediately sat after scenting something behind the license plate. “That’s his indication something is there, he sits, he doesn’t scratch, bite or chew,” said Mitchell.

Leonard is being trained as a single-purpose K-9, meaning he searches for narcotics, and is not meant for aggression or apprehension of suspects, the Chief said.

Leonard had been rescued by the Union County Humane Society near Marysville, but because he had a “high ball drive” the humane society deemed him not fit for adoption. The society contacted Storm Dog Tactical and they decided he had the right disposition to train as a K-9.

“That is what we are looking for is that dog that has that high drive (play drive), but they are able to mentally focus and concentrate on the tasks we are asking them to do,” said Storm Dog Tactical Director of Training and Operations Krishea Osborne.

The chief said he made an appointment to meet Leonard and they immediately hit it off.

“We are getting to know each other, because we are in our final week of training,” Chief Mitchell said.

Leonard lives with Mitchell and his girlfriend.

“He is kind of big baby! When he is at home, off duty he likes to get in your lap and give you kisses, but when he comes to work and put on his vest and collar he’s ready to work and is all business,” Mitchell said.

The township has a K-12 school with 1,400 children attending and Mitchell said some people have questioned him about a pit bull near children.

“Yes that concern has been made, but he is not predisposed to be any more vicious than any other dog by breed,” the chief said. “He has met the school superintendent and board and they both like the idea of Leonard helping search for street drugs in the school.

“He has already been to the high school and met a lot of the students,” Mitchell added. “If he works his whole career and never finds drugs in the school that will still be a success for us.”

Leonard was certified by the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy examiners on May 14, and the 18th is his and Chief Mitchell’s last day of training before they head back up to Ottawa County for work.

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