Burgeoning fentanyl concerns prompt first-ever K-9 unit at Santa Clara County Jail

Friday the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department unveiled a new K-9 unit specifically for their jail. They've never had one before. But the Sheriff is hoping it will help keep drugs and cell phones out. 

The dogs' names are Finn and Ollie.

They’re spaniels, one cocker, one springer, and they can smell and find contraband the size of a postage stamp.

Deputy Quang Tran, Ollie's handler, says, "I feel like this guy can do it all. He probably can jump 6-foot-fences if he wanted to. His work drive is amazing. He's an amazing dog."

The jail has never had its own K-9 unit before. But times have changed. And the Sheriff says something iq needed to combat growing fentanyl usage.

Sheriff Laurie Smith says, "We've had some overdoses on fentanyl in the past that were close to being fatalities. So I think it will help with that. And also I'm hoping it will be a big deterrent from people bringing drugs in."

The dogs' finely tuned noses can also detect cell phones and their components. They were selected for this skill, but even more important was their disposition.

Trainer Mark Rispoli looked at about 70 dogs before choosing these two.

Rispoli, of Makor K9 says, "And that's one of the things we pre-tested for: to make sure the dogs are strong in nerves and bold and courageous."

Finn and Ollie underwent two months of pre-training and then spent the last two weeks in an intensive course with their new handlers.

They graduated Friday.

When the dogs find phones or drugs, their reward is a beloved ball, but they know this is no game. Their handlers say they take their new job very seriously.

Tran says, "I think he's going to transition to the jail very well. We've been working in the jail in and out and he seems to love it. He knows it's going to be his new home there."

The dogs and equipment were donated to the department by the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation and the Sheriff's Advisory Board.

Now that they've graduated, Finn and Ollie will start work in the jail officially on Monday. 

The Sheriff's department has seven dogs in total, with two more bomb sniffing dogs joining the department next month.