Better than sonar: ODNR using more K-9s in water search and recovery operations

LAKESIDE MARBLEHEAD, Ohio- When seconds count to save a life, it's all hands on deck. In some cases, that includes four paws.

"It's people's lives that are at stake," said Jason LaGore, a natural resource officer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  "You don't want to send divers down to potentially dangerous areas if you don't have a good area to search."

The K-9 water unit is expanding statewide to keep up with the growing need for dual purpose K-9s. The dogs can help assist in water searches and recovery operations, in addition to searches on land. Their numbers are growing from three K-9s to six by the end of the year.

With several more weeks of summer ahead, officers said the dogs will likely be in demand. A FOX 8 camera rolled during their training at East Harbor State Park Monday.

The K-9s have located at least eight people since May. Officers said the dogs' sense of smell often can help emergency crews pinpoint victims ahead of the latest sonar technology.

K-9s are able to track a specific odor to find victims on the water while never leaving the rescue boat.

"We can find their loved ones quicker and hopefully not string it out for multiple days," said ODNR Officer Jeremy Berger. "It gives the family closure."