The next Lake County deputy coroner to be sworn in will be a rarity in his field.
Bones, a 1-year-old Belgian Malinois, is in training to become a cadaver dog, a first for Lake County and one of few among coroner offices in the country. Bones also will be a tracking dog and provide grief support for families.
“As far as I know, we’re the third agency in the country to have a (cadaver) dog,” said Jason Patt, chief deputy coroner and Bones’ future handler. “We hope to have him hit the streets by June.”
Bones’ purchase and training was funded with a $15,000 grant from the D.A.S. Charitable Fund for the Preservation of Feline Animal Life, a trust that provides agencies with money for the care and training of canines.
The Lake County Board on Tuesday accepted the grant for the coroner’s office and a $25,498 D.A.S. grant for food, training, vet services and other expenses for the Lake County sheriff’s office’s four-dog canine unit.
The funds are restricted to care and training of dogs and can’t be used for agency equipment, vehicles or salaries, according to terms of the trust. Patt will keep the dog and, as a salaried employee, will not incur overtime when Bones is needed after hours.
Coroner Howard Cooper said he and Patt had been discussing the potential addition to the office for awhile.
“We saw the opportunity and thought we would go for the grant,” Cooper said. “I think it will help our office and we’ll be able to help the surrounding counties.”
Patt was notified Jan. 1 by D.A.S. that the one-time grant request had been approved. Bones was selected from several dogs.
“We probably looked at 10 to 15 dogs before we chose one we thought appropriate,” Patt said. “For us, it was the temperament. We didn’t want an aggressive dog.”
Bones will be used in incorporated and unincorporated areas to locate cadaver body parts in investigations and provide grief support for family members and participate in community outreach.
“We have a lot of families that come in and it’s the worst time of their lives,” Cooper said.
Bones also is a tracking dog and could be used in searches for missing persons, particularly those with mental health issues.
“We anticipate quite a lot of usage from him,” Patt said.
Bones is in obedience training, to be followed by socialization for grief support and tracking/cadaver training.
“He’ll be a sworn law enforcement officer,” Patt said. “He’s essentially one of us.”