Czech Republic because those countries produce the best work-ing
dogs — the top 1 percent in the world.
“In America we have the dream team of basketball,” Stegall
says. “Over there in Europe, they have the dream team of K-9s. It
is a big sport, a big deal in Europe, working K-9s, sporting K-9s.
They are trained from the moment they are born.”
All the dogs in New Hanover County came from a vendor in
Oxford, Florida, which imports them from Europe. Prices range
from $9,000 for a dog with basic obedience to $20,000 for a dog
that is street ready.
“We spend on average $12,000 per K-9,” Stegall says. “We are
allowed to use drug forfeiture money, so that helps. That gets us
a dog with obedience and the foundation of tracking, the foun-dation
When a K-9 retires, or when the budget allows for an addi-tional
dog, Stegall goes to Florida looking for something very
specific in what will be the newest member of the force. But it
might not fit the common perception of police dogs.
“When you think police K-9 you probably think big, bad, bit-ing
dog, right? Mean dog,” Stegall says. “We speak to Boy Scouts,
we speak at church groups, we speak at schools. When that dog
comes out, everybody gets real quiet and real still, and they get
nervous. Every time. We do not go down there and look for the
biggest, baddest dog. I have children, these guys have children,
we’re in the schools, we’re in the public. That’s not what we want.
We want a very social dog. I can bring him out, you can pet him,
we can all play, and then somebody can come out and he can
detect that threat and it’s a different mode.”
From left: K-9 Sultan, a German shepherd, is one of the Wilmington Police Department’s four dual-purpose patrol dogs. Sgt. D. Pellegrino
follows behind as Cpl. K. Murphy and K-9 Diablo of the Wilmington PD run tracks (track human odor). Below, from left: K-9 Maxx searches
a vehicle for narcotics with handler Pellegrino. After finding the scent of drugs and indicating by sitting, Maxx is rewarded with his toy —
a yellow ball.