Crime-Fighting Dog Helping West Mich. Arson Investigations

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The newest member of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department received her badge Tuesday, Oct. 29th.  The two-year-old ‘Goldadore,’ a mix between a Golden Retriever and a labrador, is West Michigan’s newest dedicated arson dog.

There are workaholics and then there is Ritzey the arson dog that literally works to survive.

“She always eats from hand and that is the only way she eats each and every day,” said her handler Kent County Deputy Dale DeKorte.  “She is a food reward dog.”

She’s been partnered with Deputy DeKorte since May, living with him 24/7.

“This is my kid,” he said.  “She is with me all the time and she has her own attitude at times.”

Once the search is on however, “She is all business,” said the deputy.  “She knows what she is looking for.”

According to State Farm Insurance, there were a total of 444 arsons in Southwest Michigan in 2012.  80 of those in Kent County.  State Farm Insurance is providing financial help for bringing Ritzey to the department.

“It cost the insurance industry billion of dollars every year and hundreds of lives are lost as a result of arsonists,” said Dan Koorndyk a Kent County Commissioner and State Farm agent.

Investigators said a dog like this can sniff out accelerants at the scene as well as any residue that may be on the suspect.

“Digging out a large scene is extremely time consuming if you have no witnesses to the actual fire,” said DeKorte.  “She will come in and determine where the point or source is of the fire.”

The end goal of a resource like Ritzey is to prevent the next fire from happening.

“Once people understand that if you light a fire Ritzey will help determine where it was set and help acquire the evidence for conviction hopefully it will make people think twice about lighting fires,” said DeKorte.

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