PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Police dogs from across the south are putting their skills to the test this weekend in Pascagoula. Local law enforcement agencies are hosting the USPCA regional trials where police dogs obtain their annual certifications in different skills.
Police Officer Jason Green has patrolled the streets of Texarkana, Texas, for the past four years. For three of them, he's had a partner, a German Shepherd named Berry.
"He's a dual purpose K-9," explained Green. "He's a criminal apprehension dog and also a narcotics dog. He apprehends criminals, if we have a violent criminal that needs to be apprehended I can deploy him, and he'll apprehend him. And with narcotics, he sniffs out drugs."
This weekend Berry and more than 30 other dogs are being certified in the very things that make them so important to public safety in their hometowns. Although the dogs all share basic obedience and agility skills, many of them have specialties that allow them to perform specific duties while on the job.
"We've got bomb dogs, narcotic dogs and cadaver dogs out here," explained Rob Norman, newly elected regional President for the USPCA. "They do so much. Our dogs are evidence dogs; they can go out into a field and find evidence that's been thrown down."
"Most departments require a certification every year," explained Green. "And it gives you another set of eyes to say, 'Yeah, your dog's doing what it's supposed to be doing.'"
Officers said it's important that a dog's skills are tested and certified in a trial setting before they're put to work on the streets.
"If you don't have a qualified trained police dog then it could cause problems and cause accidental bites and things you don't want to happen," said Brenda Martin, a police officer in Wiley, Texas.
The officers at the trials said long hours of bonding and training go into preparing a police dog for work. But they said the hours they contribute to their K-9 partners pay off when it matters most.
"I've always got a big dog there with me," Martin said. "There are times when people will back away because they don't want to get bit by a dog."
Trials continue Sunday and Monday at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Pascagoula. Many of the events are open to the public.