New K-9 officer in Erie County has rare job

Buffalo, N.Y.– 

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office has a new canine team.

Detective Scott Kuhlmey and his new partner Axe graduated with six other teams from the New York State Academy of Fire Science last week. They’re now taking over with the fire investigations team after the canine team retired at the end of last year. They’re one of just 16 canine arson teams in New York State, and one of just 200 in the country.

When fire investigations become suspicious, there’s some things human senses can’t pick up.

“There’s often times we go in there and we’re analyzing the fire pattern something’s not adding up,” Detective Shaun Hediger with Erie County Sheriff’s Office, said.

That’s where canine officer Axe comes in with his partner, Detective Scott Kuhlmey

Axe is a 2-year-old lab mix and he’s trained to do a lot more than give paw.

“Ax’s biggest job is to assist all of us, the fire investigators, in determining the cause of a fire,” Detective Kuhlmey said.

The team graduated after several weeks of training last week. Ax will now sniff out accelerants at fire scenes in Western New York.

“[They have an] ability to detect, through odor, ignitable liquids in a house in small amounts that humans can’t detect,” Detective Heidger said.

Axe came to the sheriff’s office from a rescue group in Albany. To qualify for his position, Detective Kuhlmey said a canine has to have a high play drive and be in good physical shape.

Most are either Labrador or German shepherd mixes.

“They’re hardworking dogs. They’re loyal dogs and they take well to the training.”

It’s not all work for Axe. He gets to live at home when he’s off the job.

“He’s a great pet. He plays. We go for walks. He likes to snuggle and hang out with family,” Detective Kuhlmey said.

Detective Kuhlmey said Axe is all business once he does get to work.

“He knows it’s time to go to work when he gets in the truck or when I put his harness on and issue the commands. He knows it’s time to go to work and his whole demeanor changes.

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