HARTFORD — Officials from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are enlisting dogs to help sniff out illegally caught fish.
DEEP says three of its Environmental Conservation Police officers and their Labrador Retriever partners have received three weeks of special training from a state police K-9 unit. Those involved include Officer Holly Bernier and Saydee, Officer William Logiodice and Ruger, and Officer Karen Reilly and Hunter.
The teams were certified in tracking and evidence recovery in 2012.
The dogs, who were rescued from the Connecticut Labrador Rescue Inc. in Haddam, have been trained to search on vessels, under rocks, and in other places where illegally taken fish could be hidden. Specifically, the dogs will be trained to detect certain sport fish species commonly caught, such as trout and striped bass.
“Fish and game detection canines have been used throughout the country to assist officers in combating illegal fishing, hunting, and trapping,” said DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen.
“It is a credit to our EnCon officers that they were interested in working with their dogs to expand their abilities and importance to the agency," Whalen continued. "These canines and their handlers will be a valuable asset when it comes to protecting the state’s natural resources.”
Captain Ryan Healy from State EnCon Police said, "For the most part people are pretty compliant, but there are a few bad apples." Healy noted similar K-9 programs are already in place in states like Florida and New Hampshire.
During a demonstration at DEEP's Marine Headquarters in Old Lyme, Ruger, the 4-year-old K-9 partner to Officer Logiodice, quickly sniffed out a stash of striped bass hidden in a pontoon boat and was given his reward: a well-gnawed tennis ball.
Logiodice said their tracking dogs think their job is all a game: "All he wants to do is find the fish so he can get his ball."