NewsPittie Party

Dogfighting Survivor Becomes New Jersey’s First Pit Bull Arson Officer

Hansel, New Jersey's first Pit Bull arson dog

Unlike his namesake, Hansel’s early life was no fairy tale. In 2015, when he was only 7 weeks old, the Pit Bull was rescued from a dogfighting operation in Canada.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Throw Away Dogs Project, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that trains rescued dogs to become K9 officers and service dogs, young Hansel is about to become the first-ever Pit Bull arson-detection officer in the state of New Jersey.

“He exhibited all the qualities that a regular working dog, police K9 dog has,” Carol Skaziak, the founder of Throw Away Dogs, told News 12.

Hansel will start his new job at the Millville Fire Department on Jan. 19 alongside his partner, firefighter Tyler Van Leer. The two spent 15 weeks in training at the  New Jersey Police K9 Association’s academy. They did about 12 practice searches every day.

Arson dogs, also known as accelerant detection canines (ADCs), are trained to sniff out tiny traces of gasoline, lighter fluid, and other accelerants that may have been used to intentionally start a fire. “Canine teams have proven to be the most effective tool that fire investigators can use to locate accelerants,” according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

“In the instance where the scene is safe, I’ll determine where the point of origin is and then I’ll dig out that area, and then Hansel will come in and sniff out the area that I’ve dug out,” Van Leer told News 12. “If he sits, then I’ll take evidence. If he doesn’t sit, then it most likely was not an intentionally set fire.”

Van Leer said Hansel is super excited about his new job. “When I put on his harness and I tell him, ‘Do you want to go to work?’ he literally does laps in his crate,” he told News 12.

“Hansel has been through hell and back, and absolutely needed to find his niche, his person — and Fireman Van Leer is that person and his job,” Skaziak told News 12. “Now he’s going to have a purpose.”

Not only that, but Hansel will also be an ambassador for his often misunderstood breed. His work will “really help change the minds of a lot of people” regarding Pit Bulls, New Jersey Police K9 Association President Kenneth Sacavitch told News 12.

To make a donation to help other rescued dogs “have a purpose,” visit the Throw Away Dogs Project website.

Photo: CBS Philly/YouTube

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!