FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – The efforts to find a missing woman in Bedford County are reinforcing the importance of strong search and rescue programs.
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has taken that to heart by expanding its operations.
They introduced their newest K-9 deputy Tuesday. Nearly 500 people voted to name the bloodhound Hunter.
"The bloodhounds are great when we have a three or four hour-old track," K-9 patrol Lt. Terry Dameron said. "We have a kid that just went missing or an elderly subject with Alzheimer’s that just walked off, it's good to have those K-9s close by."
Most of their K-9s are also used for drug calls, but Hunter will be trained primarily as a tracking dog. He brings the number of four-legged Franklin County deputies to six. That’s double what it was just a few years ago.
The K-9s are making more calls than ever: an average of 30 a month.
"The guys are using them and there's a need for them. They serve a purpose in our county," Dameron said.
More dogs on duty is just one piece of improving Franklin County's search and rescue operations overall.
"You want to have as many things at your disposal that you can use," Sheriff Bill Overton said.
Overton said they launched drones in the fall, including one with infrared capabilities to track missing people in the dark.
"Time is of essence to bring someone back to safety as quickly as you can," Overton said.
The sheriff’s office now has more resources to do just that, once Hunter and his handler spend a few months preparing for patrol.
"I’m looking forward to all the training and hard work that goes in to everything," Deputy Chad Huston said. “We’re going to give it our all.”
"They’re trained, the animals are well-trained and they're ready to go into action," Overton said.