In 1975, the New York State Police created the Division Canine Unit. Three Troopers were selected to receive the specialized training to become canine handlers. These first three Troopers were John Curry, Art Krug, and James Keogh. These Troopers were assigned to canines Crow, Miss Jicky and Baretta respectively. These canines were purchased from the United States Army for the sum of $ 10,000.00. The canines were put into service solely as explosives detection canines in preparation for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York.
The Baltimore Police Department, was chosen as the training agency. This agency possessed one of the largest canine units in the United States and were experimenting with a new method of training that came to known as the "Baltimore Method". The "new method" of training dictated that the canines be sociable, allowed to be in and around the general public, and reside in the handlers residence. Most canines up to this point were extremely aggressive and kenneled when not in use. This method, is still one of the most prevalent training methods in the United States.
In 1978, the Division of State Police having had success with the initial three canines began training its own canines utilizing the "Baltimore Method". The first training location was the New York State Police Academy in Albany, New York. In 1979, the Canine Unit moved its training to Sidney, New York until 1987 when the NYS Department of Correctional Services provided the Unit with a training location on the grounds of Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. The Unit continued to grow from those first three canines to a level of 50 in 1990.
In 2000, the Canine Unit finally found a permanent home in Cooperstown, New York. Through the generosity of philanthropist Jane Forbes Clark and the Clark Foundation, the Canine Unit was provided with a state of the art training facility unmatched anywhere in the United States. The Facility is a 10,000 square foot colonial style structure set on approximately 2,000 acres of pristine countryside. The Facility can accommodate 15 students and staff and provides a variety of training applications. The Facility additionally serves as a central command center for the entire Canine Unit being centrally located in the State, and is open to all Police Agencies.
The Training Facility has proven to be a tremendous asset to the Division of State Police and the Canine Unit. The Unit has grown from those original three explosives detection canines in 1978 to it's current strength of sixty-six teams. There are currently thirty-one explosives detection canine teams, thirty-two narcotics detection canine teams, and three bloodhound teams. The bloodhound teams are utilized exclusively for tracking. Of the thirty-two narcotics detection teams, sixteen are additionally trained in cadaver detection. Additionally, eleven of the explosives detection canine handlers are also serving on the Bomb Disposal Unit.
The training program still follows the traditional "Baltimore Method". However, in contrast to the first three canines, all canines are now generously donated to the Canine Unit through Humane Societies, private citizens, and breeders from all over the northeast at no cost to the Division of State Police. These canines undergo a rigorous screening process which includes testing in: sociability, play drive, aggression, agility abilities, and state of the art medical screening provided by the Division Veterinarian prior to assignment to a handler. Upon the conclusion of the canine screening process, the most suitable canines are chosen for the twenty week Basic Handler School.
In this twenty week training period, a new handler and a untrained canine are teamed together and undergo a strenuous program during which the teams are instructed in: basic obedience, agility, handler protection, either narcotics or explosives detection, tracking, building searches, veterinary first aid, and land navigation - map and compass course. The students are required to pass all aspects of training to receive certification. Upon completion of the Canine Handlers Basic School, the teams are sent out on patrol and receive re-certification bi-annually at the Training Facility.