‘It’s like working with a 5-year-old’: K-9 Vinnie gets send-off by Washington County Commission

ST. GEORGE — The service of a law enforcement officer of the four-legged variety was recognized by the Washington County Commission Tuesday with a fond farewell. The K-9 officer, a German Shepherd named Vinnie, is retiring after six years of service with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office due to health issues.

L-R: Washington County Commissioners Dean Cox, Victor Iverson and Gil Almquist standing next to Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Montgomery and K-9 Deputy Vinnie. The County Commission presents Montgomery and Vinnie with a plaque for Vinnie’s six years of service on the eve of Vinnie’s retirement due to health issues, St. George, Utah, July 21, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“K-9’s are a valuable tool for law enforcement to utilize in tracking narcotics, detection and criminal apprehension,” Washington County Commissioner Gil Almquist said as he read a statement from the commission recognizing Vinnie’s contribution to the Sheriff’s Office.

During his time with the Sheriff’s Office, the 6-year-old German Shepherd has been used in the field over 600 times and has been involved in over 400 drug arrests. This has subsequently resulted in taking 150 pounds of illegal drugs off the street. Vinnie has also been used in the apprehension of 23 wanted fugitives, according to the statement Almquist read.

The County Commission presented Vinnie and his handler, Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Montgomery, with a plaque commemorating the K-9’s service.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, he’s taught me a lot – patience being one of the most important things,” Montgomery said. “We joke about it sometimes. It’s like working with a 5-year-old.”

Anyone who’s worked with dogs in any capacity will certainly understand they have minds of their own, Montgomery said. Just like people, they can have days where they’re eager to get to work, and others they would rather not.

“Some days are easier than others,” he said, yet added, “With his help, it’s made me a better officer.”

K-9s Tank and Vinnie with Ricki Draper, Havoc K-9 Executive Director, Washington County, Utah, June 28, 2015 |Photo by Jessica Tempfer, St. George News

Vinnie, along with this brother Tank, began to appear in the news in 2015 while still “officers-in-training.” While Vinnie went to the Sheriff’s Office, Tank ended up serving with the Washington City Police Department.

Both dogs were donated to the law enforcement agencies by Havoc K9 in 2015.

Police K-9s are considered to be invaluable partners in police work and are highly valued by their handlers and respective police departments.

During the 2018 legislative session, police officers testified before lawmakers that the relationship between K-9 officers and their handlers is close. It is not uncommon for a handler to spend more time with their K-9 partner than their own families, they said.

The testimonies were related to a bill that would make intentionally killing a police dog a second-degree felony with a potential prison term of up to 15 years.

That bill passed in February 2018.

Chief Deputy Nate Brooksby told the County Commission that K-9s and their handlers in the county are together 24/7 and basically become members of the handler’s family while partnered together. K-9 officers from across the county also engage in weekly training, he said.

Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy K-9 Vinnie with his handler, Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Montgomery, St. George, Utah, July 21, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Partnering a dog to a handler can also be difficult. Finding the right handler with the right kind of personality to work with and live with the K-9 so much can be hard, Brooksby said.

On the K-9 side, Brooksby said six K-9 officer candidates will be brought in for consideration to replace Vinnie and become Montgomery’s new partner. Helping to evaluate these K-9 deputy candidates will be K-9 handlers from other local law agencies, he said.

“We want to make sure we support them in the program as much as we can,” Brooksby said.

Montgomery will also need to be re-certified as a K-9 handler, Brooksby said, adding the whole process between re-certification and getting the new dog should see Montgomery partnered with a new K-9 by November.

Following his retirement from the Sheriff’s Office, Vinnie will be adopted by one of his original trainers from Northern Utah.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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