SAN DIEGO - After just six years of service, a local arson dog has retired. In that time, she helped authorities solve some high-profile arson cases in the county.
Photos show Metro Arson Strike Team dog Hollie in action during the aftermath of a fire. The black Labrador is seen sniffing a burned chair and the top of a charred bed for evidence.
"It's very rewarding to see the dog alert in the area that you think there is an accelerant, because then you know that the dog has found it," said San Diego Fire-Rescue Capt. Mike Merriken.
This type of skilled service dog is about $15,000, but no tax dollars or government funding was used to get Hollie to Station 14. The community in North Park raised the money.
The funds are also used to maintain Hollie's certifications.
"The dog has to go through certification once a year in order to maintain that ability to, not testify in court, but to at least allow their results to be justified in court," said Merriken.
Hollie is 8 years old and after six years of service, she is retiring. Whether the department gets another service dog is still a question.
That is because the core mission of the department is to protect property and lives and that is where funding must go first.
"If that mission is fulfilled and there is additional funding available for the dog, he's always been a big supporter of it," said Merriken.
The department told 10News a dog can work up to nine years. 10News asked why Hollie is leaving early and a spokesperson said it is up to each agency to decide how long to leave a dog in service and that this decision was about the dog's quality of life.
Hollie will go home with her handler, Merriken. He also retired with 30 years of service.