K-9 teams sharpen skills at joint training exercise

27 law enforcement agency units undergo emergency scenarios

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SAN ANTONIO – In the aftermath of mass shootings at Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas, K-9 handlers say it's more important than ever to keep their four-legged crime fighters sharp.

Units from various law enforcement agencies, some from as far as Round Rock, participated in a joint training exercise Tuesday at Retama Park.

For canines like Bingo, a 3-year-old German shorthaired pointer, exercise equals recreation.

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"He's always excited. This never stops," said his handler Ron Miller, of the Federal Protective Service, as Bingo jumped and walked in a circle nonstop. "It's just play time. Whenever he's out of the truck, whenever he's running around, it's nothing but hide-and-seek." 

But the training exercises are serious business. 

Bingo usually keeps federal buildings around San Antonio safe, but on Tuesday he was practicing clearing a car of dangerous objects and searching luggage for an ingredient used to make an explosive.

The quarterly joint exercise attended by the 27 teams helps them to always be ready.

"(The) reality is, there might be an IED (improvised explosive device), there might be a car bomb that (a person has) brought in and introduced into the scene, and that's where we come in and try to make that safe," said Sgt. Andres Lopez of the San Antonio Airport Police Department K-9 unit.

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The units took part in six scenarios, ranging from clearing the floor of a building to checking an unattended bag in a public place.

Lopez's dog, 11-year-old Cora, is about to retire after seven years on the job. But she still takes time to practice.

"(You) can't afford to be wrong, not even one time," Lopez said.