Here at State Parks, leashed dogs are commonly observed with their owners on hiking trails, in approved camping areas and enjoying lazy summer days. However, there is also an elite group of highly trained dogs , K9’s, paired with their State Park Police handlers, in a specialized program that began over 15 years ago.
Since 2002, the New York State Park Police have used Police Canines and Handlers as specialized teams to keep State Parks, our visitors, and our neighboring communities safe. This is a short history documenting their incredible work and highlighting the achievements of “Man’s best friend” in State Parks.
Initially, two K9s trained in explosive detection were selected and stationed in Long Island. Over the next two years, the State Park Police recruited four more K9 teams and stationed them in the Niagara and Saratoga-Capital District Regions and in the Hudson Valley, all trained primarily for finding explosive devices. The last of those specialized canines, K9 Chase, working with Officer Mannocchi in the Palisades, retired in 2014.
The next generation of canines began their deployments after 2014. Officer Mannocchi returned as a canine handler with K9 Sadie, trained for finding people tracking in the wilderness areas of the lower Hudson Valley. Shortly after starting her ‘job’ with State Parks, K9 Sadie and her handler , Officer Mannocchi were called to assist with a search of a heavily wooded area for a male subject suffering from serious health issues. At 2:00am, K9 Sadie located the man lying in a thicket of woods approximately 1 mile from his home. The man was later reunited with his family without further incident. K9 Sadie and her handler were credited for their rapid response and effective capability.
At the same time that K9 Sadie was training, Officer Cali and K9 Teo came into service in the Niagara Falls area, as part of a homeland security opportunity. Teo is certified in explosive detection and has conducted numerous searches at Niagara Falls attractions and State Park concert venues, as well as a Presidential campaign event and the NCAA Men’s March Madness Tournament.
From the success that the K9 program gained, State Park Police Chief David Herrick expanded the K9 program to address the need for large venue protection. With the support of Commissioner Rose Harvey, Chief Herrick was able to recruit five more K9 teams, who were trained and deployed in 2016.
The New York State Park Police now have seven K9 teams, deployed from Western New York to Long Island, prepared to serve the state parks and their millions of visitors.