The community of Polson opened its arms to provide training grounds for dozens of law enforcement canines and their handlers to practice and certify in law enforcement scenarios recently.
Scott Sciaretta, Lake County Sheriff Office’s Canine Deputy, Field Training Officer, and Search and Rescue Coordinator, said that a certification event happens every year, usually in eastern Montana. Bringing it west this year drew in handlers and dogs from several western states and Canada to the event that was held June 24-26.
Master trainers came from as far away as Georgia, Iowa and Pennsylvania to work with dogs and their handlers in a wide range of scenarios. More than 40 handlers attended, from many agencies, with some even bringing more than one dog.
Montana Highway Patrol brought 11 dogs while Billings Police Department brought three. Polson and Ronan were each represented with one dog and one handler.
“People in town were asking us where all these cops and dogs came from,” laughed Sciaretta.
One scenario dogs and handlers trained in was an active shooter situation, including bite training.
“The mindset is not that we put less value on our canine partners’ lives, but there’s a very good chance that we can save human life if we can send in a canine partner, because of their speed,” Sciaretta said. “I dare anybody to try to outrun my Max [his Belgian Malinois canine partner].”
Max and Sciaretta serve as the only narcotics team in Lake County. They received training searching for narcotics in school lockers and classrooms, among other places. “It was nice to have someone else putting out training aids to test us,” he said. The two have been together 5 1/2 years, since Max was a pup. Working with a canine “actually brings an aspect of fun into the job.”
Canine/handler teams also trained to find explosives in schools, and search and rescue teams trained to find cadavers and cadaver parts in places such as vehicles, buildings, and even water.
“This came off very well,” Sciaretta said. “All the dogs got certified. If dogs were struggling, master trainers worked with the handlers and dogs. Without a doubt, we all got more confidence.”
Sciaretta expressed gratitude for community resources made available.
“This would not have been even possible if it wasn’t for the Polson School Board offering us the entire high school and middle school premises, and the Fairgrounds allowing us to use their facilities as well. I think they understand this is all about public safety.”