The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office soon will have a full-fledged facility dedicated to the tactical training of its K-9 units.
Ground was broken during a Nov. 15 ceremony for the Helen A. Rich K9 Complex — as part of the larger forensics research and training center project in Land O’ Lakes known as FIRST, an acronym for Florida’s Forensic Institute for Research, Security and Tactics.
Located at the intersection of Lucy Dobies Road and Central Boulevard off U.S. 41 in Land O’ Lakes, the K9 Complex is scheduled to have:
- A 10,000-square-foot indoor training facility
- A veterinary science center
- A kennel for 40 dogs
- An outdoor obstacle course and agility field
- A rubble pile for search and rescue training
The K9 Complex will be completed in phases, with some features finished as soon as late 2019, according to Pasco Sheriff’s Capt. Justin Ross, who is overseeing the project.
The project alone is expected to cost about $5 million, not including other FIRST facilities, according to the sheriff’s office.
In addition to teaching standard K-9 tactics, the training grounds will be used to help develop advanced K-9 techniques in airport security, explosives and drug detection, and search and recovery.
It will also include an academia-based research component focused on the health and wellness of working and retired police dogs.
“It’s kind of that synergistic partnership between researchers and practitioners, where we want them to really improve upon the use of working dogs and dog safety,” Ross explained.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco described the forthcoming K-9 project as “special” and “absolutely incredible.”
Nocco explained: “It’s really about finding ways to make us safer, make our communities safer, and it’s about building a legacy for the next generation.
“One day somebody will be saved because of the training that goes on there (at the complex),” he predicted.
Besides the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, the K-9 facilities will also be used by other local and regional law enforcement agencies. “We want to make sure we bring as many people as we can for the K-9s,” the sheriff said.
The K9 Complex is named after Wrigley gum heiress and Odessa resident Helen Rich, who donated more than $480,000 toward the construction of the project, according to the sheriff’s office.
In a brief statement at the ceremony, Rich said the gift was a “no-brainer” because the project goes to support both dogs and law enforcement.
“Why did I do it? Because God told me to. That’s it,” the 70-year-old Rich said, of the donation.
Ground was broken in September on the entire FIRST campus.
A resource for universities, forensic scientists and law enforcement in the entire state, FIRST will serve as an aid to improve crime scene operations and investigations in the realm of homicides, missing persons cases and so on.
At its build out, the multiple-building forensics research center campus will have a laboratory, classrooms, a morgue and evidence storage space, where work will be done in the fields of legal medicine, forensic intelligence, aviation reconstruction and cyber forensics.
There’s also potential for training in the use of robotics, drones and data processing in the arena of public safety and workforce training, among other fields.
The FIRST campus received $4.3 million in state funds this year. It is expected to also be complete in late 2019.
Published November 21, 2018