Sitting close to his handler Sheriff’s Officer Christine Casullo, the newest employee of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office carefully paid attention to everyone who walked into Room 119 of the Ocean County Administration Building to meet the latest recruit.
The 14-month-old Shepard K9 from Hungary, named Drago, is the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office newest bomb/explosive detection dog. As the center of attention during his introduction, Drago was introduced to Ocean County Commissioners, staff and officers.
“Drago is a donation from Remembering Brian Kanterman, Inc.,” said Ocean County Commissioner Gary Quinn, liaison to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office. “I want to express the appreciation of the Board to this organization and thank them for their generous donation that is already part of Ocean County’s public safety family.”
Drago came to the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year.
“The Sheriff’s Office experienced a great loss last year when Officer Casullo’s K9 also a German Shepard, named Bear passed suddenly,” said Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy. “When the Remembering Brian Kanterman Inc. reached out to the Sheriff’s Office saying they would like to buy the department a new dog, we accepted the offer with great appreciation.”
Remembering Brian Kanterman Inc.’s mission honors those who serve and protect by working to purchase police dogs for agencies that recently lost a dog in the line of duty and awarding “go bags” to first responders. The nonprofit program was established in memory of Brian Kanterman who died in the line of duty in 2018.
The organization also assists in providing service dogs to veterans, partners with local animal shelters to provide emotional support animals to veterans and first responders, pays the costs to train individuals who wish to be a police officer, firefighter or EMT, offers scholarships to individuals who want to go into criminal justice, law enforcement or legal fields, and assists veterans and first responders struggling with addiction get support.
Stanley Kanterman, who is the President of the organization, recently presented Officer Casullo with a ballistic vest for Drago and a go bag that included a ballistic medical kit for both the K9 and handler.
“Brian always set a great example of service even outside of his chosen career,” Kanterman said of his son who died in the line of duty on Dec. 25, 2018 at the age of 25. “He was the guy who could be found helping elderly folks load groceries into the car, holding the hand of an unsteady person crossing a busy street, buying a cup of coffee for someone in military uniform (and thanking them) and volunteering at animal shelters.”
While Brian could not fulfill his dream of becoming a K9 officer, the Remembering Brian Kanterman Inc. was created in his memory to provide assistance to law enforcement and emergency response agencies.
“Our Sheriff’s Office provides K9 support to all 33 municipalities in Ocean County,” said the Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners John P. Kelly. “Our K9 handlers have great bonds with their dogs and we are so appreciative of the donation by the Remembering Brian Kanterman charitable organization of Drago into our law enforcement community.”
The Ocean County Sheriff’s Office has six full-time sworn K9 handlers and two part time sworn K9 handlers. The department currently has 13 dogs on staff.
Drago, who is named after Ivan Drago from the Rocky movies, is currently taking part in the New Jersey State Police’s 14-week program to become a bomb/explosive detection dog.
Officer Casullo has been a K9 handler with the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office for 11 years. In addition to Drago, who is her third bomb dog, Casullo also has K9 Fiona, who is her second bloodhound.
“Our K9s and their handlers are well trained and have been a benefit to the communities across the County,” Sheriff Mastronardy said. “From helping to locate missing children to working crime scenes, the members of this unit are dedicated to serving this County.”
For more information on Remembering Brian Kanterman, Inc., visit www.rememberingbriank.com.