Constable’s canine adds tracking skills
Wood County Precinct 2 Constable Kelly Smith and canine Juma have added one more skill to their list. After a three week training course in Houston, Juma is fully trained to track lost children, senior citizens and criminals running from law enforcement.
Over a year ago, in July 2018, Juma and Smith became partners when she was donated to Wood County by K9officers.org. The nonprofit organization, formed by Rocky and Shannon Smith, provides assistance to law enforcement agencies by raising funds to donate police canines, handler training and equipment. The total package provides the optimum chance for success, according to their website.
The gift of Juma and her training, valued at over $14,500, has been a great asset and tool for Wood County law enforcement. Several thousands of dollars and vehicles have been seized from her alerts that wouldn’t have been apprehended otherwise. Smith says that he has gone on 90 deployments with Juma, with all resulting in a misdemeanor or felony drug arrests.
They do public relations events, parking lot searches, traffic stops, human tracking cases, visiting schools to present anti-drug messages and searching for drugs. Juma is the only detection canine in Wood County, keeping her and Smith busy. They are on call all the time, with the average call out being about two hours. She lives with Smith and his family, and he pays for all food and vet bills.
Juma was trained when Smith obtained her, and they have continued to train together. A year ago, they did five weeks for her basic in narcotics detection, and they train with a group of about 18 East Texas canine units for eight hours weekly. They also go to seminars, conferences and competitions.
At the recent National K9 competition in Fort Worth, Juma placed 34th out of 150 and that’s after only a year as a team. The longer they are together, the more bonded Smith and Juma become, and the better they will be at reading each other. Other handlers can see when she alerts, but they can’t work her like they would their own dog.
Right after getting her in 2018, they got called out several times to track people. That’s when they decided to get her trained in tracking. She has been trained to do article scent but can also track from catching the scent where the person was last seen.
On the last night of her recent training, she had to jump on a track that was 20 minutes old. She is very good at what she does, and was able to quickly find the person they were tracking.
Smith feels that being able to find lost or missing people will be one of the most important parts of their job, and they are ready to put her new training to use. Smith says there are things the community should know.
First, when calling 911 to report someone missing, ask for Juma to be sent out. A perimeter should be set up and the scent of the track needs to be protected.
“If the area is saturated with first responders, she’ll be smelling all of those scents and it could take her longer to discern the right one,” says Smith.
She’ll look for disturbed vegetation and human scent. Where someone was last seen is where she’ll jump on the scent. Along the way, she’ll find any articles that have been dropped.
Legally, they do not ask for donations, but Juma does accept gifts through the Wood County treasurer’s office that are approved by commissioners.
Look for partners Constable Smith and Juma at the next community event and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.