JANESVILLE — The Rock County Sheriff’s Office is expanding its canine unit, and two new service dogs and one new deputy handler have been publicly introduced.
The public was able to meet the two new canines during an open house at the sheriff’s office.
New handler, Deputy Tara Nolan, will work with one of the department’s new dogs, Gunny, a 16-month-old German Shepherd. The department also welcomed Max, a 16-month-old Belgian Malinois, to the force. Max will work with longtime canine unit deputy Shawn Nolan.
The Nolans are brother and sister and make up two-thirds of the department’s canine unit. Deputies ran the program from the 1990s till 2002, but stopped the program until current Sheriff Bob Spoden reinstated canines in 2007.
“This is the first time since the mid-1990s that we’ve had three dogs again,” said Canine Unit Supervisor Sgt. Wayne Hansen. “They’re a wonderful tool to have for law enforcement.”
Shawn Nolan has worked with the department for 13 years, six of which were spent with Dex, a German Shepherd that recently retired. Law enforcement agencies across the country are linked with certified kennels to purchase service dogs. Rock County’s new four-legged deputies were purchased through confiscated assets from previous drug investigations, according to Chief Deputy Barbara Tillman.
Badger Vet donated its services to care for Max over his career, and Janesville Animal Medical Center donated veterinary needs for Gunny. J’s Feed in Orfordville pledged lifetime supplies of food for each animal.
The dogs will assist deputies in narcotics and building searches. Recently, Max assisted federal agents executing a search warrant at buildings in the Rock County area, Tillman said. He’s also spent time handling vehicle inspections in narcotics searches.
The Nolans train with their animals twice a month, working on tracking and obedience techniques. The canine unit requires yearly certifications to keep the animals current on all needed service requirements, Hansen confirmed.
“Obedience training helps build the strong bond between a handler and their dog,” Shawn Nolan said. “It helps form the building blocks needed for all other training that comes afterwards.”
As a new handler, Tara Nolan spent countless hours preparing to work with Max, she said. Tara Nolan is also the first woman handler at the department.
“I knew what to expect a little bit going in because of (Shawn),” Tara Nolan said. “I had gone up to the kennel to get a feel for it to see if it was something that I wanted to do. It’s a lot of work but it is very rewarding. You have to be ready to put in that extra effort.”