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Provo police get two bomb-sniffing dogs

Published July 17, 2013 6:37 pm

Thanks to a federal program, police didn't have to pay for canines.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • Drew Hubbard never had such a hairy partner before, but he is ready to get used to it.

She's good at detecting bombs, anyway.

"People said I should name her Xena: Warrior Princess," Hubbard said, playing fetch with the German Wirehaired Pointer in a courtyard. With or without the mythical moniker, Zima is about ready to be a hero.

Zima, and a golden retriever named Billy, are Provo's first bomb-sniffing dogs. The city has had to borrow dogs from the county, but now that the city is growing — Provo Municipal Airport just added flights to Los Angeles — the police sought their own.

They even got the dogs for free, when bomb-sniffing dogs would normally go for thousands of dollars otherwise. The Provo Police Department received the animals through a program in which dogs that were specially picked out to become bomb-detectors for the U.S. military, but did not quite make the cut, are given to law enforcement, said department spokesman Lt. Mathew Siufanua.

Hubbard and two dog handlers traveled to a U.S. Air Force base in Texas to pick up Billy and Zima, who were born in Europe, earlier this year. After traveling across an ocean and most of a continent, the dogs are almost ready to get to work in their new home — after they complete two months of training in Salt Lake City.

Once they are ready, Zima will stick with Hubbard on his patrols and Billy, paired up with Timpview High School resource officer Bryce Lewis, will patrol the campus each day. Besides explosives, Billy can pick up on handguns too, Lewis said.

Last year, two teenagers planned to detonate a pipe bomb during an assembly at Roy High School. Lewis hopes he and Billy's routine checks can prevent anything like that at Timpview High.

Then during special events, the hounds will work together to scan crowded streets and venues for anything suspicious, such as during the city's upcoming Freedom Festival, said Mayor John Curtis. The city's need for ordnance detection has been paramount since the Boston Marathon bombings, according to a news release.

"We want to be proactive as a police department," Curtis added. Only last week, the FBI stopped a Provo man's alleged plan to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in the city.

Hubbard and Lewis, members of the bomb squad already, welcome the extra help. Lewis used to own dogs and Hubbard used to work at a kennel, and both are looking forward to partnering with the dogs.

The training will involve a careful balance of finding how to make Billy and Zima obedient without subduing the hunting drive that makes them valuable. For Hubbard and Lewis, right now that means playing a lot of fetch and going on long walks so that the two-legged and four-legged specialists can get to know each other.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda