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Hettinger County Sheriff canine program launched by generosity of citizens

Hettinger County's new four-legged sheriff's deputy and her handler recently completed their training in Pennsylvania.

HCSO canine
Hettinger County Sheriff Department Sgt. Kennedy Pippenger watches Lyon track a ball in Mott Nov. 15.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press
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MOTT, N.D. — A drug sniffing canine recently acquired by the Hettinger County Sheriff’s Department was funded entirely by donations, Sheriff Sarah Warner said.

“We are amazed at the citizens and the outpouring of support that we have for him, and we raised just over $55,000,” she said. “Nothing was funded by taxes. It was all donations.”

The dog, whose name is Lyon, and his handler Sgt. Kennedy Pippenger completed training at Shallow Creek Kennels in Sharpsville, PA, on Nov. 4.

“He was pre-trained before I came out there, and I spent six weeks out there training with him as, well as them training me,” Pippenger said. “It's exciting. We worked really hard to get to where we're at and to have a drug dog down here will be very beneficial for not just us, but the whole county.”

Lyon is a German Shepard from Poland.

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“They don't breed them for their looks kind of like we do here in America,” Pippenger said. “So because they breed them for their abilities to herd, they make good police dogs.”

Lyon
Sgt. Kennedy Pippenger and Lyon search the Hettinger County courthouse for drugs on Nov. 15.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

Startup costs for Lyon, which included training, were approximately $40,000. Warner anticipates training programs and vet bills to cost a total of $12,000 each year going forward.

Lyon is not only trained to sniff out narcotics but also tracks and apprehends suspects, Pippenger said.

“So apprehension would be more or less like, if we have somebody who escapes or is possibly attacking an officer... he can bite,” Warner said.

Despite this training, Warner said he is safe and very social. Lyon is trained to detect any narcotic, but not marijuana.

“We have decriminalized marijuana,” Warner said. “And you know the trend that's going on in the country is to legalize marijuana. A lot of times when these other drugs are found, marijuana will also be found. So we can then deal with that or make charges off of that if marijuana is also found.”

A substantial portion of the drugs that move through Hettinger County are discovered while en route to Dickinson, she said.

"A lot of it's coming up the highways and making it to Dickinson. Then it will be dispersed out of Dickinson and back down to all the counties,” Warner said. “We do have it here and we are aware of it.”

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If Lyon signals that he smells drugs, she explained, that gives officers a probable cause to search. She noted that he will also be deployed to foster good relations with the community.

“We're looking forward to getting into the schools and different community events and things like that where he can visit these different places,” she said.

Sgt. Kennedy Pippenger
Hettinger County Sheriff's Sgt. Kennedy discusses the potential for a canine program with New England city commissioners during a monthly meeting on April 4, 2022.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

Plans to launch this program have been in the works since early last spring. Hettinger County Commissioner Todd Lutz said he feels good about the addition to law enforcement.

“We were 100% for it,” Lutz said. “Just talking to the sheriff's department... it's a needed thing with the traffic on the highways.”

Commission Chairman Tom Geerts said the idea was well received.

"I'm just pleased that there's an officer that stepped forward and is doing what she can to help the citizens of the county," Geerts said.

Warner hopes the canine program will continue to be donor-funded. She plans to make that happen through community outreach and demonstrating what an effective deterrent Lyon is to potential drug mules moving through the area.

Lyon and Pippenger
Sgt. Kennedy Pippenger and Lyon search for drugs in a courtroom at the Hettinger County Courthouse Nov. 15.
Ashley Koffler / The Dickinson Press

Ashley Koffler is a Killdeer, North Dakota native and Dickinson State University graduate, with a Bachelor’s Degree in writing, and minors in journalism and psychology. Formerly working in Community Affairs for Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development, her reporting focuses on Stark County and other rural municipality governments, community features, business and agriculture — among others.
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