Two days before the highly publicized recent New York prison break, a local K-9 apprehended a suspect who was wanted for questioning regarding a robbery in Palm Springs.
There were no cameras present. There were no reporters on the scene. There was not an army of police officers, nor were there numerous K-9’s tracking the escapes.
There was just one police dog and one officer patrolling Indian Canyon Drive after 9 p.m. Kane, the 5-year old Belgian Malinois, who has been with the Palm Springs Police K-9 unit since 2011, simply did his job: As the suspect ran from the scene, Kane was released by his handler, officer Luciano Colantuono, and Kane caught the suspect a short distance away.
I briefly met officer Colantuono while he was patrolling with Kane. As I spoke to Colantuono, Kane was inside the SUV barking—and the sheer force of his movement was shaking the whole SUV. Yes, the power of a trained Malinois K-9 is formidable.
Israeli Special Forces have used these dogs for years now to fight terrorism, and the U.S. Secret Service combs the White House grounds with these exceptional dogs as well. They look like German Shepherds, but are a bit smaller—though their abilities are legendary: A Malinois is capable of jumping a 10-foot wall.
“The Palm Springs Police department has been utilizing apprehension K-9s since 1980,” said Lt. Gustavo Araiza, the lead officer of the K-9 program. “In 2003, we started utilizing bomb-detection K-9s at the Palm Springs International Airport.”
Kane is one of two Malinois currently on the force. Once upon a time, there were four K-9s with the department. Kane has never been injured during a patrol related incident, nor has he taken fire.
However, Kane has been fortunate.
“Kane replaced K-9 Ike, who was killed in the line of duty in 2011,” recalls Lt. Araiza. “Ike was shot by a suspect.”
Ike is the only Palm Springs police K-9 ever to be killed in the line of fire. Officer Colantuono, who was also Ike’s handler, was wounded in the incident. The officer is media-shy, does not seek publicity and is a man of a few words.
When off-duty, Kane lives with Officer Colantuono, a 10-year PSPD veteran.
“I’ve been with Kane since day one when he came to the department,” Colantuono said.
The bond between Kane and his handler is unbreakable. The officer is the only person who feeds his K-9. They work four days a week, and they often train together—and they train hard, as you can see in the photo.
Kane is not a simple family pet. A police service dog is extremely active and requires a diet formulated to meet its increased energy and nutrient demands. Simply put, it takes a lot to take care of a K-9.
“The cost of a dog with handler training runs approximately from $15,000 to $18,000, and the fee for the K-9 is generally paid through donations,” said Lt. Araiza, a 15-year department veteran.
Public donations for the K-9 program are accepted at the Palm Springs Police K-9 Unit, P.O. Box 1830, Palm Springs, CA 92263-1830.
For more information, visit the Palm Springs Police K-9 Unit Webpage.