By Andrew Mitchell
For the past seven years a German Sheppard by the name of STAT, and his handler Corporal Richard Gingras, has been helping local RCMP catch suspects.
When a man shot and killed another man in Whistler Village on March 10, STAT was the dog that leapt on the suspect immediately afterwards and allowed police to arrest him with no further violence.
When a 19-year-old man stabbed a Grade 11 student to death at a party in Squamish and fled into the woods, STAT was the dog that found the suspect 12 hours later.
Recently STAT also helped in two manhunts, in Sechelt and on Gambier Island, apprehending both suspects for knife related attacks.
According to Corporal Dave Ritchie of Sea to Sky Regional Police Services, he was a valued member of the force.
“He did a lot of amazing things lately,” he said. “Whistler was a big thing. It would have been a pretty difficult case to solve and cost a lot of money, but in this case we were in the right place at the right time with the right tool for the job.
“We do some training where we fire blanks, and then have the dogs go after the person who fired the gun. We were pretty impressed that through all the years where that training didn’t get used, in this case the dog focused right in on the guy after he heard the sound of the shots and helped make the arrest and protect the public.”
According to Ritchie, STAT was starting to develop issues with his rear hips which is common to his breed of dog. Although he’s still quite mobile, the RCMP won’t use any dogs if they start to develop health issues.
STAT has been assigned to the Sea to Sky region, Sunshine Coast and Gulf Islands for the past two and a half years. At times the job has been strenuous, such as the two-day pursuit of a stabbing suspect on Gambier Island.
Corporal Gingras’s family will keep STAT in his retirement, even as they train another new dog, called Sultan. Other young dogs are being training by RCMP members in Sechelt and Whistler, and the Whistler dog has recently been send to a specialized dog trainer in Kamloops after passing his initial tests.
“There is a lot of testing involved, and it’s going to be a long process,” said Ritchie. If police dogs are required locally, Sea to Sky Regional Police Services can borrow dogs and handlers from the Lower Mainland until there is a local replacement for STAT.