SAN SIMEON, Calif. - California State Parks celebrated a big anniversary for its K-9 program Friday morning at Hearst Castle.
"It's a recognition of the K-9s and the K-9 teams that have been working and training and patrolling California State Parks for the last 50 years," said State Parks officer Chris Hendricks.
To mark the occasion, State Parks held a media event to highlight and demonstrate the program's history and achievements.
"They do a lot of work," said Hendricks. "They're very dedicated and very loyal."
Created in 1969, the K-9 unit now includes 17 teams that are based at various parks throughout California, including four at Hearst Castle, and one each at the Oceano Dunes and Ventura.
"They do normal patrols, making sure the visitors are safe and the resources are protected and the handler is protected throughout the day," said State Parks K-9 Dept. Coordinator James Grennan.
Besides daily patrol and tracking abilities, many of the dogs are also trained in narcotics and explosives detection.
"A lot of our local agencies will request us for assistance, so there's a lot of work these days for bomb sweeps with the dogs," State Parks officer Daniel Gant.
When needed, K-9 units help provide protection at large scale public gatherings, such as sporting events, concerts, festivals and more.
"We've had the opportunity to work with local entities. We do large venues," said Grennan. "Presidential candidates come through, we do dignitary sweeps. We do from the biggest things to the Wine Festival in Paso Robles. We help out where ever we can when there's a need for it."
At Hearst Castle, K-9 units have been providing extra protection since the early-1970's.
"On a daily basis, we do multiple foot patrol," Gant said. "We go out and walk the property, where the public is and where the public cannot access and then first thing in the morning, we do a foot patrol before anyone arrives up here and check the grounds and then in the evening once we've cleared the hilltop of visitors, we do another patrol where we block all the tour routes and lock the building."
Those who work with the animals all said they are extremely dedicated and loyal, and are especially effective in fighting crime.
"These canines are an amazing deterrent," said Hendricks. "If we can deter crime from even happening, then we've already won that battle."
When a crime is committed, the dogs are usually successful in bringing a conflict to a peaceful resolution.
"Once the dog arrives on scene or when the suspect hears the dog barking in the patrol car, they typically go with the program," said Gant.
Grennan, who also serves as Hearst Castle Museum Security Superintendent, agreed.
"Most people when they hear that dog bark, they don't find out that comes next thing that comes with the bark," said Grennan. "Which is usually the bite."
For more information on the California State Parks K-9 unit, visit parks.ca.gov/k9program