Rescue Dog Is First Pit Bull To Become An Arson-Detection K9 Officer

by : Emily Brown on : 26 Jan 2020 12:45
Pit bull becomes first Arson-Detection K9 OfficerPit bull becomes first Arson-Detection K9 OfficerThrow Away Dogs Project/Instagram

A pup rescued from a dog fighting ring is thought to be the first pit bull to become an arson-detection K9 officer. 


Hansel the dog was rescued from the cruel organisation in Ontario, Canada, when he was just seven weeks old and has since worked hard to become a member of the Millville Fire Department in New Jersey.

The pit bull was one of 21 dogs saved from the ring, including his mum and his sister, Gretel. A global campaign called #Savethe21 was created to fight against the euthanisation of the rescued dogs, and five of them, including Hansel and Gretel, ended up being taken to a nonprofit named Throw Away Dogs Project.

The organisation rescues ‘unique’ dogs and teaches them to become K9s. After a year of training with Throw Away Dogs Project, Hansel was enrolled in a 16-week K9 academy, where he learned how to become a certified arson-detection K9 officer.


The pit bull trained to become a single purpose arson-detection K9, meaning he has been specifically taught to identify ignitable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline and diesel.

Tyler Van Leer, a Millville firefighter and Hansel’s handler, told CNN:

He was trained or imprinted on 14 different odours, and once he was imprinted on all the odours, he was eligible to graduate.

Hansel’s hard work paid off as he graduated from the K9 academy on Friday, January 24, and officially became a member of Millville Fire Department, where workers are said to ‘love’ his company.

While the graduation is an achievement in itself, Carol Skaziak, founder of Throw Away Dogs, believes the occasion made history.

She explained:

I am 100% sure Hansel is the first pit bull arson-detection dog in New Jersey.

I have done so much research and I don’t believe there are any other pit bull arson-detection dogs in the entire country. I have not found any others.


After seeing Hansel’s progression over the last year, other departments have expressed interest in bringing in their own pit bulls as arson-detection dogs.

Skaziak hopes Hansel’s accomplishments will continue to encourage emergency service departments, saying:

We need police chiefs and fire chiefs around the country to want to do this too. This is the first step that could make a huge statement for this breed that has been so misunderstood.

Hansel will get to work immediately now he’s part of the Millville team, though he will also be available to aid other police and fire departments. As part of his job, the pit bull will join Millville firefighters in teaching students about fire prevention around the area.

Van Lees has said Hansel is always enthusiastic about getting to work, saying:

He’s extremely excited. Whenever I ask him, ‘Are you ready to go to work?’ and bring out the harness, he starts doing laps around the crate.

I’m sure Hansel will make his new colleagues proud!

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Animals, Millville Fire Department, New Jersey, pit bull, Throw Away Dogs Project


CNN and 1 other
  1. CNN

    Meet Hansel, the first pit bull to become an arson-detection K9 officer

  2. Throw Away Dogs Project