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Arson dog teams get annual certification

Some fire department personnel are getting the green light to sniff out evidence of arson.
Posted at 6:30 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 19:30:56-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Thanks to the State Farm Arson Dog Program, K-9s Ally and Gibson are investigating suspicious fire throughout Iowa and Nebraska.

Omaha Fire Arson Investigator Dave Sobotka and Council Bluffs Arson Investigator Dan Roberts are in the privileged positions of bringing their pets to work. Sobotka teams up with Ally while Roberts teams up with Gibson.

"With Ally, she knows when it's time to work, she's ready to work," Sobotka said.

These K-9s get certified each year to locate potential evidence of arson. Sobotka and Roberts have been working with the same K-9s since they started.

"I think as we go, both the handler and K-9 develop and get better over time," Roberts said. "So yeah, I think in the sense of Gibson and us, we've improved since we become a team and I think that will continue throughout our years of service."

Arson dog teams direct the handler to the location of an accelerant like gasoline or oil. Then, the handler takes the evidence to a lab. That is crucial for any arson investigation.

"Having those K-9s is a huge help because we're left with minute pieces of evidence, those dogs' noses are so sensitive, they can find those minute pieces of evidence, so they are essential to fighting the crime of arson for us," Roberts said.

Training this year looked different. Through technology - teams recertified with a national trainer in Maine instead of training with other dog teams. Still, Sobotka and Roberts are grateful their trustworthy teammates have stayed consistent all this time.

"These dogs are still dogs at the end of the day but it's their working drive that makes them great at what they do," Sobotka said.

The State Farm Arson Dog Program has put more than 425 dogs and partners to work in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

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