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Police welcome canine partner on crime.

Byline: Jim Feehan The Register-Guard

In a police impound lot earlier this week, Kyra, a dope-sniffing Belgian Malinois, started barking like mad, pawing and pressing her snout against one of the cars. When officers checked the vehicle, there it was: 20 ounces of methamphetamine stashed in the car's center console panel, Eugene police officer Rob Hart said.

"That was a significant find for Kyra in only her first month," said Hart, Kyra's handler.

Eugene got the dog for free this summer when Gresham police cut the dog program due to a tightening budget. Since she began service Aug. 1, Kyra has been used 38 times assisting patrol officers, narcotics detectives, parole and probation officials, airport security and Lane County sheriff's deputies working in Eugene. At the Eugene Airport, she's sniffed 440 packages with no alerts or finding of illicit drugs, Hart said.

Interim police Chief Thad Buchanan said Kyra is a great tool in the war against drugs given the department's staffing woes.

"Having Kyra increases the number of drug seizures and frees up the amount of time officers spend searching a house or vehicle for drugs," Buchanan said. "Kyra is saving us an enormous amount of money and taking narcotics off the street."

While it might take officers 45 minutes to locate drugs at a home, Kyra takes only about five minutes, Hart said.

Since Eugene took possession of Kyra, she's gone through 200 hours of twice-weekly training in Salem, and was certified by the state as a drug-detection dog. She can smell methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and heroin and its derivatives such as hashish, Hart said.

The police department did not have to pay for the training, which was done through the state corrections department.

When not on duty, Kyra lives with Hart.

The job requires a lot of off-duty time grooming, feeding and tending to medical needs and general care for the 5-year-old dog.

Because of her demeanor, Kyra is also used for public relations, visiting schools and festivals in the area.

"I had her at the Lane County Fair and kids we're pulling on her tail and ears and she took it all in stride," he said.

The Lane Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team had a drug detection dog, with a Eugene officer as its handler, during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The program was discontinued seven years ago when the dog was retired and budget cuts prevented maintaining the program, Hart said.

On Thursday, the Eugene Police Commission discussed the policy governing the drug detection dog program and will talk about proposed changes to it at next month's meeting.

Polly Nelson, education director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, told the commission she has some concerns about the application of the drug-sniffing dog. It should not be used without a warrant, or strong evidence to support probable cause, Nelson said.

"People should have a reasonable expectation of privacy," she said. "We're increasingly moving toward the belief that everyone is assumed guilty until they are proved innocent."

CAPTION(S):

K-9 police officer Robert Hart sits with partner Kyra, a 5-year-old dope-sniffing Belgian Malinois that Eugene got for free from Gresham.
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Title Annotation:Officials say their new dog is a great tool given Eugene's staffing woes; Government
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 13, 2003
Words:525
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