Dog versus drugs


Mono County’s new drug dog can identify residual smells left behind by illegal drugs

A powerful new weapon against illegal drugs has been added to Mono County’s law enforcement teams—a four-year-old Belgian Malinois dog named Tara.

Tara’s nose is so powerful, she can pick up the odor of a pound of marijuana or the lingering scent of cocaine residue left on the steering wheel of a car, according to the sheriff’s department.

Tara was purchased from Belgium and is now a permanent member of the Mono County Sheriff’s Department, after undergoing 200 hours of training in narcotic detection in Riverside County recently.

Just in the past two weeks, according to the sheriff’s department, Tara has found $4,200 worth of illegal drugs, and has made a run through some of the county’s schools, checking lockers for the scent of drugs.

Tara’s handler is Mono County Sheriff’s Narcotics Investigator Chris Callinan.

If there is a “reasonable suspicion” that there are narcotics in a stopped vehicle, Tara can be brought in to search the car, as long as the search is done within an hour, Callinan told the Mono County Board of supervisors Tuesday.

She cost about $5,700, he said, not including her training, which cost thousands of dollars more.

Tara is trained to “detect the odor of narcotics, specifically marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and their derivatives,” according to the sheriff’s department.

“She is trained to alert to the presence of narcotic odor,” a recent sheriff’s department press release stated. “Her alert consists of a noticeable change in behavior with a final response of barking, biting, or scratching at the location of the odor. Her alerts vary depending on the location of the odor.”