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K9 aids Sheriff’s Office

ABOVE: The Martin County Sheriff’s Office's K9, Bruno, is coming up on one year of service this summer.

FAIRMONT– It’s been just over a year since the Martin County Sheriff’s Office’s new K9, Bruno, began training along with his handler, Luis Figueroa. Since becoming certified, the two have proven to be a valuable asset to the department.

Bruno is a Belgian Malinois that just turned 2 in January. He and Figueroa together did a 12 week training at McDonough in the Twin Cities last spring and at the end of June 2023, Bruno began officially working with his K9 handler.

Prior to Bruno starting it had been several years since there was an established K9 unit in the county. Chief Deputy Corey Klanderud had brought the idea forth to the Martin County Commissioners in late 2022 and shared that Figueroa was willing to train to become handler.

In addition to undergoing regular obedience training, Bruno received special training in tracking narcotics, but not marijuana.

“Every so often we proof him on it. We’ll actually hide some and make sure he’s not alerting to it,” Figueroa said.

The reason Bruno wasn’t trained to track marijuana is because at the time his training started it was expected that cannabis laws in Minnesota would be changing, which they did.

While there are K9s in the US trained to track marijuana, most departments in Minnesota have had to retires their K9s since the law changed.

“It’s harder to proof a dog off of marijuana than it is to imprint them on it,” Figueroa explained.

Still, Bruno has served an important purpose with the department as he also does article searches and tracking for missing people or suspects.

“We’ve had some successful finds so far throughout our career and have been used for tracking,” Figueroa said.

Whenever Figueroa is scheduled to work, so is Bruno. The two are also on call and will spring to action when their service is required.

“Other departments know that we’re available as it’s needed,” Figueroa said.

So far the pair have assisted several school districts with school sniffs.

Figueroa and Bruno need to maintain 16 hours of training per month and recertify through the National Police K9 Association annually. When training, Figueroa said they’ll use synthetic narcotics or some provided by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).

The public has proven to be a big fan of Bruno and has had several chances to meet him. Figueroa said that Bruno was at the Martin County Fair last summer and that the two were at the Child Abuse Prevention pancake feed where individuals could pet Bruno. Coming up they’ll have a presence at school safety day on April 26.

While Bruno serves an important purpose, he also receives love and plenty of dog-friendly treats.

“He’s still a dog and he can have fun. He works hard but that’s not it. He gets days off, too,” Figueroa said.

He noted that Bruno’s breed is very active and that they go on walks and runs and have a lot of play time.

“He’s still in his puppy stage and loves to play with his toys. He also loves to play fetch. He could do it for hours,” Figueroa said.

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