12:00 AM

K-9 officer to help University Police with safety at Ohio State

COLUMBUS – A new member of University Police works to make campus a safer environment – and stands approximately three feet tall, weighs about 70 pounds and gets paid with a tennis ball. The new addition is a K-9 police officer named Catto.

After six weeks of 16-hour-a-day training with his handler, the 17-month-old German Shepherd is now a full-time member of University Police and will help to ensure safety on Ohio State’s campus, said Vernon Baisden, director of public safety at the university.

“This new addition to our public safety resources will enhance our efforts to keep campus a safe environment,” Baisden said. “The terrorist attack of 9/11 dictated that we reassess our public safety resources and acquire additional resources as they become available.”

Among other things, Baisden said Catto is trained to search a building for suspects, to track a suspect or the scent of explosives, and to warn other officers of potential danger.

Acting Chief of University Police John Petry said it is important that Ohio State has the resources necessary to handle any security issue that may arise.

“As one of the largest universities in the nation, we have a lot of programs that could be targets of a terrorist threat,” Petry said. “The new addition of Catto to University Police gives us an advantage to take care of a threat.”

Patrol Officer Bryan Thompson, the K-9 handler and a second-generation member of University Police, continues to train with Catto on a regular basis. He says Catto is trained with Columbus and state law enforcement agencies and can get involved in various aspects of police work.

“It has been an ongoing process,“ Thompson said. “We are constantly training and retraining what the dog does.”

Thompson said the training includes everything from learning commands to working comfortably in any type of environment. In fact, Thompson recently spent time training at Port Columbus International Airport to get Catto used to riding escalators.

He also said Catto is available to be used by other police jurisdictions, including Upper Arlington and other Columbus suburbs.

“Part of the protocol for the dog is that he will be available to help other agencies,” Thompson said. “He is here and he is available to other agencies whenever possible.”

Petry said events with controversial speakers and high attendance, such as football games, can attract threats. For example, a briefcase was left unattended in front of Ohio Stadium before one of last season’s football games. University Police had to wait about an hour until a dog from another jurisdiction arrived. Now, he said the police dog can be at the scene in about half the time. Although the briefcase turned out to be harmless, Petry said University Police didn’t want to take any chances until a police dog had inspected it.

“The dog may catch something that we don’t,” Petry said. “There are numerous occasions on campus when the dog will help with security.”