EL PASO, Texas-The El Paso police department just added three new four-legged officers to its force.
Now EPPD has as many as 20 dogs in the unit.
ABC-7 was given a rare look at how the police officers and K-9 handlers train the dogs.
Sergeant Armando Castañeda, trainer and a member of the unit, says the public has no idea what goes into training them or the importance of the K-9 unit to the police force. He says K-9's are used when officers search for a suspect and believe the suspect is armed and dangerous.
The dog can either spot the suspect or take down the suspect if that suspect is not cooperating.
Dogs used as part of the El Paso K-9 unit are primarily Belgian Malinois breeds. According to Sgt. Castañeda, the K-9s are shipped from Belgium to a dog breeding ranch in California. Officers drive out to that ranch, pick two or three from the pack and purchase them at the cost of approximately $13,000 each. But after the training, the price could go up to $20,000 dollars.
Once trained and certified, those K-9s spend most of their time with the officer handler, even going home with that officer.
Police spokesman Enrique Carrillo explains that dogs are protected by law. Suspects attacking the dog can face a felony if they wound the dog.
Ochoa says a K-9's time on the force can range from four to ten years, depending on the dog's health.