West Virginia Division of Forestry Investigative Unit utilizes special tools
CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Division of Forestry Investigative Unit has special tools that have proven effective in tracking down arsonists, missing children and lost hikers. They are the crime fighting dogs of Forestry’s K-9 teams.
Assistant State Forester Don Kelley began working with search dogs shortly after joining Forestry in 1993. For the last six years, he has partnered with Raisy, a bloodhound he has trained since she was a few weeks old.
In 2017, Kelley and Raisy were named K-9 Team of the Year during the West Virginia Police Canine Association’s annual training/recertification conference. The crime-fighting dogs are required to pass rigorous tests to certify their tracking skills. The annual certifications are valuable factors in having the dogs’ evidence stand up in courts of law.
Kelley and fellow Division of Forestry investigator John Bird help to train and certify dogs and handlers for Forestry and other organizations. Kelley estimates he has trained around 20 canines for a career in tracking and law enforcement.
The West Virginia teams have also traveled to assist law enforcement agencies in other states. Kelley and Raisy have tackled assignments across the country, including California, Arizona and North Dakota.
In the fall of 2016, Kelley and Raisy helped locate a missing man who had medical issues. Raisy tracked the man’s scent from his home to a drainage ditch more than a mile away. The man was successfully rescued and transported to a nearby hospital.
The Investigative Unit’s K-9 teams have tracked arsonists, reducing the problem of arson fires in rural areas where eye witnesses may be few.
When it comes to tracking crime, Raisy and her partner have the offenders beat by a nose.