After 10 years of faithful service, K-9 “officer” Rex retired from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) Law Enforcement K-9 unit. Owner and program supervisor Lt. Jason Sawyers has been partners with Rex since the program’s inception in 2002.
During their initial training in Indiana with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Sawyers and Rex were educated in tracking, wildlife detection and evidence recovery.
“When I first met Rex, it was actually in Indiana,” said Sawyers. “My previous dog wasn’t performing well after the first few days, so I decided to try our back up dog, Rex.” Sawyers explained that Rex immediately exhibited the energy and drive he was looking for. “I knew right then that we were going to be a team,” added Sawyers.
One of five teams throughout the state, Jason and Rex played a pivotal role in the enforcement of game-related laws and the conservation of our resources.
“Our dogs allow us and other officers to make cases they wouldn’t have made before,” said Sawyers. “Rex has recovered items including guns, spotlights, shell casings, knives, wallets, cell phones and various game.” Sawyers added that Rex even found evidence that led to the apprehension of an individual suspected of shooting another man.
In an attempt to spread the conservation message throughout the state, the KDWPT K-9 unit is often used in public programs and demonstrations.
“Even if we aren’t around, they’re a big deterrent. The public knows we have dogs and it helps to keep them honest,” said Sawyers. “I think Rex and the entire K-9 unit have really been positive for the law enforcement division. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Start up costs for the program were funded by private donations, including the dogs. Like many of his K-9 officer counterparts, Rex, a labrador retriever, was obtained from an animal shelter.