BRADENTON -- A pair of Italian-bred Belgian Malinois puppies, named Cesare and Castor after Roman gladiators, have become the third and fourth members of the Bradenton Police Department Canine Unit.
Looking healthy but a bit thin from an 11-hour airplane flight from Rome to Miami and ground trek from Miami to Bradenton, the 18-month-old pups received a warm reception when they arrived at 3 p.m. Tuesday in a white sport utility vehicle at the police station.
Cesare is a bit lighter colored and bigger than his brother, Castor.
Police employees streamed out of their offices to greet the newest members of the BPD, and many took photographs with their cell phones.
The first thing the squirmy, highly alert dogs heard when they entered the building was a booming, "Ruff, ruff, ruff," as Chief Michael Radzilowski's voice peeled down from the second-floor balcony.
"I'm very excited," said Officer Jason Taulbee, who will take Cesare home with him and begin to bond. "I think Cesare is a good match for my personality. He's mild-mannered, calm and chilled out."
"This is exciting," said Officer Matt Palmer, who will handle Castor. "We've been waiting for this day for three months."
A canine team is used for many situations, including building searches, narcotics detection, tracking and apprehending criminals.
The force already has a Belgian Malinois named Blitz, trained by Bradenton Officer/senior handler Jeanine Pease, and Wagner, a black Labrador used just to sniff out drugs and handled by Officer Ross Johnson.
The canine purchase was made possible by using forfeiture funds seized in narcotics investigations, Radzilowski said.
"The size of our department and the growth of the city of Bradenton calls for the addition of these canines," said BPD's long-time canine trainer Lt. John Affolter. "We've been relying on the Manatee County Sheriff's Office for assistance. We couldn't cover everything we wanted to cover."
The new dogs are excellent at tracking humans and for narcotics searches, Affolter said.
"I was overwhelmed with the greeting," said Andrea Bogiatto of Enforcement Dogs, a relatively new Italian company that trains police K-9s and now has three sales in the United States, all in Manatee County.
Enforcement Dogs got Cesare and Castor from a breeder in Turin, Italy, and have already trained them to bite and fetch, said Bogiatto, who accompanied the pups to America along with three helpers.
The third enforcement dog in the county is at the Palmetto Police Department, which ordered a Breton named Chica for drug searches, Bogiatto said.
Bogiatto said the two new dogs, who headed to the vet for an exam about 30 minutes after arrival, cost the city of Bradenton less than $1,000.
"They are a little stressed, but that's to be expected with being crated for a long airplane trip," Affolter said.
Affolter describes himself as a "shepherd man," referring to his love for German shepherd police dogs, but he says Malinois are just as good for police work.
"It's like Chevy and Ford," Affolter said.
"Malinois have high drives," said Pease. "They are very fast and great trackers. They are great at finding drugs. They are an all-around great police dog."
Bogiatto weighed in on the difference.
"German shepherds were famous for police work but aren't bred as much anymore because there has been a lot of mix in their breed," Bogiatto said. "Malinois are still almost pure."
As a result of breeding, Cesare and Castor will love to work much more than being pets, he added.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072. You can follow him on Twitter @RichardDymond.