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Vader reports for training: Sarnia Police Service launches new canine unit

Vader, Sarnia’s new police dog, was introduced to the community Tuesday morning just before leaving for 15 weeks of intense training in Windsor.

Vader is a 15-month-old German shepherd born in Slovenia, said his handler is Const. Shawn Urban.

Urban is the other half of the new canine team and will be with Vader 24/7.

Const. Shawn Urban is Vader's handler. Cathy Dobson photo

Following extensive public consultation, the Sarnia Police Service (SPS) purchased Vader from a kennel in Pennsylvania that specializes in police dogs, said Board Chairman Paul Wiersma.

A dog is very effective to search for missing persons and articles, for de-escalating (tense situations) and for clearing buildings, said Wiersma. 

Vader will be a “highly-trained specialized tool,” agreed Chief Derek Davis. “He will provide important capabilities for the Sarnia Police Service.” Sarnia police called in an OPP canine unit in the past but it wasn’t always readily available, he said.

A contest to name the new SPS dog attracted about 220 ideas from elementary school students and another 300 or so from adults. Among the name submissions were Blue, Chase, Gary, Daryl, Sergeant and even Spaghetti.

But Urban chose the winning name suggested by seven-year-old Benny Canie who attends Holy Trinity Catholic School. 

Benny Canie, 7, won the contest to name Sarnia's new police dog. He was with his dad Kelly Canie for the announcement today at police headquarters. Cathy Dobson photo

On Tuesday, Benny was at police headquarters with his dad, Kelly Canie, to meet Vader and receive accolades from the chief.

The new canine unit has numerous “start-up” costs including $10,000 paid for the dog’s purchase and another $100,000 in capital costs. For instance, a police cruiser had to be specially outfitted with temperature controls to accommodate Vader, Davis said.

He expects the canine unit will save substantial time for investigations. Successful search and rescues, narcotics searches and other police activities can be much faster with a dog, the chief said. Vader will also be taught how to “bite and hold” perpetrators.

Once trained, a “swearing-in” ceremony will be held for Vader and the dog will receive a police badge number. It’s anticipated his working life will last about eight years.    

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