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Police K9 units put their skills to the test at the Law Dog Challenge

Posted at 8:34 PM, Mar 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-26 09:17:25-04

OCONTO FALLS (NBC 26) — Law enforcement teams from all over Wisconsin braved the winter weather and came to Fox Ridge Game Farm Saturday to get some valuable experience for the dogs in their K9 units—and bragging rights for their handlers—at the Law Dog Challenge.

Event organizer Mark Zietler said Fox Ridge has been hosting the event since 2010 and uses the profits to purchase dogs for local law enforcement.

“We ended up giving [dogs to] Brown County, Oconto County, Marinette County, city of Marinette," Zietler said. "I think right now, we’ve purchased right at 10 canines."

Zeitler said the event—which also includes a pheasant hunt—was started in honor of his late father Karl, who had a passion for hunting dogs. Zeitler said he thinks his dad would be proud of the work being done in his name.

“He’d be pretty puffed up, he’d be pretty proud," Zeitler said. "It’s a big deal. It turned into a big operation, and he was always the guy would would sit in the corner and never say anything.”

According to the Oconto County Sheriff and Wisconsin Law Enforcement Canine Handler Association President Todd Skarban, the dogs that police receive from Fox Ridge perform important jobs like searching for drugs, locating missing people and apprehending suspects.

The canines and their handlers get to practice these important skills at the law dog challenge, which Skarban says prepares them to face similar scenarios in the real world.

“We set up problems so that the dogs work through them in practice and if you have sound practice philosophy, you’re gonna be successful in your deployment on the street," Skarban said. "It makes it better and safe for the handler, and better and safer for the community ultimately.”

While the training is valuable for the K9s, Skarban says their human handlers also enjoy getting the chance to show who's really top dog.

“Our teams are very well trained, I’d set Wisconsin dogs against any dogs throughout the whole country," he said. "It’s bragging rights throughout the state of Wisconsin. That’s what this is about right now, is to see who has the best of the best.”