The 1st Pit Bull K9 Arson Officer | Official Good Dog

From a puppy born into a dogfighting ring to the first Arson Detection K9 Officer in the state of New Jersey, Hansel is living proof of the power of second chances.

CNN Erik Larson

Image courtesy of Erik Larson, CNN


At only 7 weeks old, Hansel was one of two dozen pit bulls rescued from an Ontario-based dogfighting ring. Sadly, this initial rescue didn't guarantee these dogs the safe and happy lives they deserved. Because of Ontario's breed specific legislation, the dogs were considered a risk to public safety and were scheduled to be euthanized in 2015. 

Luckily, this pack of pit bulls had someone in their corner. The team at Dog Tales Sanctuary and what grew to be more than 100,000 petitioners worked to keep the dogs alive and brought international attention to their story.


Carol Skaziak, co-founder of Throw Away Dogs, K9 Hansel and Firefighter Tyler Van Leer.
Image courtesy of


After a series of legal battles, 21 of the dogs were finally safe from being euthanized and made their way to the sanctuary. Of 21 dogs, a handful exhibited the special qualities needed in working dogs — one of these dogs was Hansel.  

Hansel was taken in by the Throw Away Dogs Project, a rescue-based training center located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here, they worked with Hansel for over a year before he was ready to enter a 16-week training program with his new partner to become a certified Arson Detection K9 Officer.

 K9 Hansel Throw Away Dogs Project

Image courtesy of the Throw Away Dogs Project


Now, K9 Hansel and his partner, Firefighter Van Leer work together each day to protect their community. Today, Hansel is able to identify 14 different accelerants and is an indispensable asset to the Millville Fire Department!

Hansel's story has shown that pit bulls are extremely capable of scent work and has opened many people's eyes to the breed's ability to excel as working dogs.

The team at Big Barker is pleased to award him with both the Official Good Dog Gold Medal and a Big Barker bed. Thank you, Hansel! 

Keep up with K9 Hansel and Firefighter Van Leer on Instagram


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