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Richland County Jail to get drug dog

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The Richland County jail is getting a drug dog.

Molly, an Australian Shepherd, will start at the Richland County Jail next week. She will be the first drug dog assigned to the jail.

“We’re real happy to have a dog in the jail,” Sheriff Steve Sheldon said. “It’s something we’ve wanted to have for years. It’s part of our effort to stop the conveyance of illegal drugs.”

Molly has been training mainly with Deputy Jim Sweat Sr. since late last year.

The black-and-white dog, who turns 2 in March, is energetic and quite the people pleaser.

“When most people think of police dogs, they think of the patrol dogs,” said Sgt. Jim Sweat Jr., who like his father is a dog trainer. “This dog is specifically for narcotics detection. It’s not unusual (for those) to be a smaller, more high-energy breed than the working dog.”

Patrol dogs are usually German shepherds or the Belgian Malinois. Molly will live at the jail and work with three handlers, one for each shift. They are corrections officers Jeff Fellure, Nate Long and Dan Hillier. Sweat Jr. said Molly’s situation is unusual because normally a police dog works with one handler.

“The dog knows what she’s doing at this point,” he said. “It’s a matter of training the handlers.” Maj. Joe Masi noted Molly has six caretakers, too.

Masi said the drug problem is a difficult one for the jail, along with Mansfield and Richland Correctional institutions.

“We’re in a little bit better situation than the prisons,” he said. “We do not have contact visits. “The biggest problem we have is someone who knows they’re coming to jail concealing those drugs. The state of Ohio requires probable cause to do a strip search. The people that are frequent (inmates) know that.” Prison officials, Masi explained, can do strip searches because their inmates have been convicted. “Their standards are different than ours,” he said. Sweat Sr. offered an impromptu demonstration of Molly at work for a reporter and a photographer. “The command is, ‘Get the dope!’” he said.

Molly started digging furiously when she found a bag of marijuana. The trainer said when Molly is looking for drugs, she wants to get a reward, which in her case is a towel. “All she is searching for is that little towel, her toy,” Sweat Sr. said.

Molly will be a welcome addition to the jail, at least for the staff.

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