MARIANNA, Fla. (WMBB) — In Jackson County, there’s a new sheriff in town— and with new leadership comes new goals and mindsets.
Since Sheriff Donnie Edenfield took office earlier this year, the K-9 unit at the department has expanded to two different divisions.
One of the divisions is for narcotics detection to help discover a majority of street drugs. It consists of K-9 “Edge” and K-9 “Rocky.”
K-9 “Edge” was recently acquired by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. The three and a half year old Belgian Malinois was donated to the department by iK9 in Anniston, Ala.
Sheriff Edenfield said the company’s donation of the young dog, along with four weeks of training with his new handler, is a value of around $15,000 that the department received completely free.
“That’s huge for a county our size… We’re always working on small budgets,” Sheriff Edenfield said. “That’s a blessing from God.”
The other K-9 division is for tracking, which was established in March. The team is led by award-winning Tracking Sergeant Charlie Price.
Sheriff Edenfield said the K-9 tracking team is not only used to find fugitives, but also missing people, Alzheimer’s patients, dementia patients and kids with autism.
The breed of dogs the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office uses for tracking are also not typically used in other departments.
“When most people think of tracking K-9s, they think of bloodhounds,” Sheriff Edenfield said. “But Sgt. Price uses beagles, which is a little different… They’re very effective and very good at what they do.”
Sgt. Price said the beagles are ideal for tracking because they bark while actively tracking a scent, and they don’t need to be leashed.
“I use beagles for the safety aspect of it,” Sgt. Price said, because having them free-range keeps a buffer between law enforcement and the person they’re tracking.
Sheriff Edenfield said there were six beagles at the time of our interview earlier this month, and one of the dogs was pregnant.
The department plans on training the new beagle puppies to continue growing their tracking team.
He also said he wants to acquire two more narcotics detection dogs.
“Our goal is four [narcotics detection dogs] to help cartel the drug problem… So many crimes that we have that we deal with every day can relate back to drugs in some sort of way,” Sheriff Edenfield said. “We’re going to aggressively attack the drug issue.”