ATHENS — When Sheriff Botie Hillhouse worked narcotics as a Deputy, he successfully handled Henderson County Sheriff’s Office first K9 Deputy, so this week he added two, full-time drug dogs to their team.
“Better still, we are paying for this proven, new weapon with money seized from drug arrests,” he said of the $125,000 operation. “No tax dollars are being spent, and instead we are using what would have been profits for drug dealers to destroy their business.”
During the first hour of their first day on the job, one of the dogs apprehended a wanted woman who escaped custody in a neighboring County.
“They are proving their worth,” the Sheriff said.
This summer, two Deputies – Meagan Hogan and David Robertson – were sent by Hillhouse to a five-week training school at the K9 Global Training Academy in Somerset, near San Antonio.
Both dogs – Max, 3, and Kan, 2 – are from Bosnia and are Belgium Malinois.
The dogs cost $10,500 each, Hillhouse said.
“These are trained, professional Deputies,” he said. “They both have great dispositions but are always on duty. They are not pets.”
Hogan and Robertson worked day and night with the Max, handled by Hogan, and Kan, handled by Robertson.
The Sheriff said he expects to dogs to be in service for up to 8 years. They will be recertified every year, return to camp for training and make regular trips to the veterinarian.
Additional costs are feeding and housing. The dogs will live with their handlers.
“These K9 teams will give us a new, powerful tool in our on-going campaign and against drugs and will be priceless in cases where we are involved in search and rescue cases or manhunts,” Hillhouse said.
Hogan said the training was challenging.
“Max is alert, smart and always on the ready,” she said.
Robertson said, “Kan is a powerful creature with a keen sense of his surroundings and his job.”
The dogs will both wear protective, bullet-proof vests, body cameras and are trained to patrol, guard, search for people and contraband and bite on command.
It was during their first day of work earlier this week when Precinct 1 Henderson County Constable Kay Langford called the Sheriff’s Office regarding the wanted escapee.
The woman was discovered in a home in Athens, and Sheriff Hillhouse and his two K9 teams raced to the scene. Kan and Deputy Robertson forced her from a hiding place in the attic.
The new dog teams add to Sheriff Hillhouse’s expanding campaign against crime in Henderson County.
Two weeks ago, he Sheriff Hillhouse launched his Office’s first-ever drone team. It will be used in manhunts, search-and-rescue operation and anytime “we need an eye in the sky,” he said.
Sheriff Hillhouse said he consulted with Kaufman and Smith County Sheriff Offices and the Tyler Police Department to create the Office’s K9 policy.
“I wanted to get with the best, to learn what is working well in the field today,” he said.
Hillhouse took Office in June of 2016, promising a crackdown on illegal drugs, drug users and drug dealers.
“Since then, we have made thousands of arrests and we are continuing to upgrade our crime-fighting tools – first with the drone and now with these two K9 teams,” he said.