When classes begin in August, there will be thousands of new faces on campus, but only two of those faces will be of the four-legged variety.

Nero, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, and Toro, a 1-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, will have joined the Virginia Tech Police Department as the university’s newest officers.

“Our K-9 teams are an incredible resource,” said Virginia Tech Police Chief Kevin Foust. “In addition to helping us maintain a safe and secure campus, students and employees love to see them out and about patrolling campus.”

Both dogs are explosive detector dogs, more commonly called bomb dogs. They are trained to find 19 different specific odors that can be used to make many different combinations of explosives. Dogs are believed to have a sense of smell 1,000 to 10,000 times better than that of humans, according to Forensic Science International.

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Both K-9 teams patrol campus and are responsible for sweeping Lane Stadium and other university facilities in advance of major events, including football games, graduations, guest speakers, and Virginia Tech Board of Visitors meetings.

They are also involved in the university’s community policing efforts and give demonstrations at community events. Additionally, the teams are available to assist other agencies in call-outs for explosive detection and respond to numerous suspicious package complaints. 

Toro’s handler, Officer Rob Ogle, has been with the department for two years. He and Ogle were certified by the Virginia Police Work Dog Association in June. Before coming to Virginia Tech in 2014, Ogle served in the United States Marine Corps for 16 years. Toro came to Virginia Tech as a donation from the United States government.

Virginia Tech Police Officer Austin Sumners is Nero’s handler and a four-year member of the department. Nero and Sumners graduated from the Virginia State Police’s Explosives K-9 Detector School and were certified by the Virginia Police Work Dog Association in June 2015. Sumners came to Virginia Tech in 2012 after graduating from Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy in Salem, Virginia. Nero came to Virginia Tech from the Slovakia Republic, in Central Europe.

In addition to Toro and Nero, Virginia Tech also has a narcotics and apprehension canine, Bax. Bax is a 4-year-old German Shepherd who has been with the university since 2014.

Learn more about Virginia Tech’s K-9 program.

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