In March 2015, the Nassau County Sheriff’s office received a bloodhound from the Jimmy Ryce Center for Victims of Predatory Abduction. The non-profit organization near Miami was formed in 1996 by the parents of a 9-year-old boy who was abducted at a school bus stop and then murdered. Jimmy’s parents believe he might have been found alive if a bloodhound had been available to track his scent.
The Center’s mission is to increase awareness about sexual predators and to make the dogs available to law enforcement agencies. To date, they’ve donated more than 400 American Kennel Club-bred bloodhounds. When Angel arrived at the department at nine-weeks-old, she joined a small team of canine cops and started intensive training.
On Friday, the Independent visited Angel, now about two-and-a-half, at her home behind the Nassau County Detention Center in Yulee and talked with Director Connie Johnson to find out how her training is progressing.
“So far, so good,” said Mr. Johnson. “Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of need for her specialty.”
That’s tracking missing children and adults. Bloodhounds have super sniffers and can be valuable to search and rescue missions.
Angel is much bigger than when she arrived and her tail moves like a propeller around visitors. She lives in a large chain-link kennel that is more than six feet high and about 10 feet wide. There’s a dog house shaped like an igloo on the cement floor and her water bowl is a sizable plastic container that accommodates her snout, ears, and both front paws when she drinks.
The kennel is surrounded by a few feet of grass, some gravel, a bit of cement, and then by solid plastic fencing. Tarps are rolled down in inclement weather.
“Mostly when it’s cold,” said Mr. Johnson.
Angel lives next door to Zada, a 12-year-old bloodhound. The department had a third canine, said Mr. Johnson, but Pops passed away.
Director Johnson said the dogs live in the kennel full time and do not live with a deputy. Occasionally, he said, they come inside the facility. He said Angel and Zada are taken out several times each day for exercise and training. Angel, he said, learns to track in nearby woods, farmland, and subdivisions.
“She gets in her workouts,” he said.
On this day, Deputy Joy Edgy takes Angel out to play, getting her to run and jump on a box and play in the kiddie pool, though she doesn’t need much coaching. “Good girl,” she said. “She’s a smart one.”
When the bloodhound arrived at the department, she didn’t have a name. Sheriff Bill Leeper organized a contest on Facebook and received some 1,200 suggestions. Callahan Intermediate School third-grade student Kansas Hogan won and said in her submission that the pup should be called Angel because the canine will look for people “who are lost in order to bring them home safe and sound.”
On Friday, with the temperature at more than 90 degrees and the air very humid, Angel was eager to run. The kennel was covered and conditions felt okay during the 15-minute visit.
Under the county’s animal control ordinance, owners are required to maintain proper air temperature within the animal’s “acclimation/thermo-neutral zone” between 45 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. What was temperature in Angela’s and Zada’s kennel?
That was impossible to say. The kennel does not have a thermometer, said Mr. Johnson. But he said the dogs are closely monitored. He called them respected members of the department.
“The dogs are working for us and they are well cared for,” he said.
Dog tethering rules in Nassau County The commission is expected to revisit new tethering rules later this year. In May, the board passed a new rule that allows dogs to be tethered up to 12 hours each day. Previously, pet owners could leave their dogs tied up all day. Animal Control Director Tim Maguire pragmatically supported the change. While he favors an around-the-clock tethering ban, he has said that slowly phasing in a 24-ban is the most practical approach for a rural county.