State Fish and Wildlife trains first K9 detection officer

The black lab named Benny will help officers find illegally trafficked wildlife


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police just finished training their first wildlife detection dog.

“Benny” is an expert at finding illegally trafficked wildlife and even guns, but there was a time the black labrador’s future did not look so bright.

“His original owners surrendered him because he has a lot of energy and a lot of drive,” explained Benny’s handler, Det. Lauren Wendt.

That energy and drive is now Benny’s best asset.

Detective Wendt recognized the difficulty her fellow detectives faced trying to track endangered wildlife parts in Washington. A dog would help speed the process dramatically. Wendt found Working Dogs for Conservation and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), who worked with her to establish a plan for creating a canine program and finding a suitable canine candidate.

Then, Wendt was ready to find a dog. Benny’s energy seemed like the perfect fit. She says he had an incredible hunt and toy drive but almost no obedience or manners.

It took 200 hours of training to get him job-ready.

While KING 5 was filming Benny train Tuesday, Det. Wendt got reports of an attempted elk poaching in East Pierce County. We traveled to the site and watched Benny sniff for shell casings from bullets that may have been fired illegally.

“Benny can tell us if something’s here, but he can also tell us if something’s not here. It’s beneficial even if he doesn’t find anything. We can confidently say, what we’re looking for isn’t here,” Det. Wendt said.

Benny isn’t just good at his job. He loves it too, and maybe that’s because it’s not just a job. Benny’s new home is with Det. Wendt – a rescue dog now coming to the rescue of poached and trafficked wildlife.

KING 5 Environmental Reporter Alison Morrow © 2017 KING-TV