The Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) continues to lead the pack in K9 Narcotic Detection.
The WDOC’s two K9 teams, Sgt. Jory Shoopman/K9 Zeke and Sgt. Randy Speiser/K9 Copper, took 1st and 3rd place honors respectively at a regional certifying course for the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) on July 25, 2020 in Nunn, Colorado.
Each year the WDOC’s K9 Unit is required to go through a rigorous training and certification process to demonstrate a mastered skill level in the area K9 Narcotic Detection. The utilization of K9s represents a highly cost effective and reliable asset in detecting the presence of illegal narcotics and preventing such drugs from entering WDOC facilities.
According to the USPCA’s website, their testing is considered to be the field’s toughest and only national police K9 certification, with over 48 U.S. Supreme and Federal District Court rulings that acknowledge the USPCA test as a bonafide Police K9 test and evaluation.
This is the third time in five years that Shoopman and her K9 have received the “Top Dog” award in the Detection Division. Shoopman previously placed first-place in 2019 and 2016 with K9 Hunter, who retired from active duty earlier this year leaving some big paws to fill.
In May of this year the WDOC obtained Zeke, a German Shepard, through an organization called MidWest K9 which specializes in providing basic narcotic detection services to rescue dogs identified as candidates for the program. Zeke is the fifth rescue dog that the WDOC has obtained through MidWest K9.
Soopman and Zeke were paired as a team and stepped up to the challenge of preparing for certification. Less than three months later, following hundreds of hours of training and bonding, they went through the certification and achieved a near perfect score of 199.17 points out of a possible 200. For their achievement, Shoopman and Zeke received the 2020 Kyle Hall Memorial Award for Outstanding Narcotic Detection Score
Sergeants Shoopman and Speiser are assigned to the WDOC’s Investigative Services Unit (ISU). In addition to detecting drugs inside Wyoming’s prisons, the WDOC K9 Unit provides support to local law-enforcement, probation and parole agents and other community organizations when requested. K9s Zeke and Copper are trained to detect 6 types of narcotics: Marijuana, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Ecstasy, Heroin and Mushrooms. Both dogs are trained for the single purpose passive detection, meaning they are not trained to track or attack.
According to Shoopman, there are a lot of different facets involved in drug-dog training. In addition to learning obedience and scent detection, the dogs and their handlers must learn to work together. “It’s definitely a team effort,” Shoopman said. “As handlers, we have to develop a lot of skills so our dogs will do what we want them to do. We have to learn how to read the dogs, and the dogs have to learn how to read us. It’s important to train as much as possible, so we can be ready to conduct effective, lawful searches at any given time.”