Arson Dog Kai: From Animal Shelter to the Red Carpet

K-9 Kai
Arson K9 Kai is a shelter rescue success story. Her story began in 2009 when she was picked up off the streets by McLean County Animal Control and forfeited by her original owners. Fate would send a representative from the Humane Society of Central Illinois to the facility where they agreed to try and find a new home for the young Labrador retriever. During playtime, Kai was observed finding the only tennis ball in a large toy box. Her drive was obvious and with one phone call, her career in Fire Investigation began.

The shelter made a call to a trainer with the State Farm Arson Dog Program and in April 2010, Kai entered the program to begin four weeks of training with her new handler, Justin Davis. By the end of the training, the duo were certified as an accelerant detection canine team with the San Antonio Fire Department in Texas.

Kai is trained to find miniscule traces of flammable liquids that may have been used to start fires. Kai’s never-ending energy, drive and tenacious quality makes her an awesome working dog. Her working environment of heat, smoke, bright lights and sirens which would send most dogs running away, but not Kai. With a single command of “seek”, Justin and Kai begins their investigation (sniff) of the fire scene. When she locates even a drop of gasoline or fuel that may have been used to start the fire, Kai alerts Justin but sitting down and pointing with her powerful nose. Her reward? A handful of dog food and praise from Justin. To date, she has worked well over 200 fire- and bomb-related investigations across San Antonio and Bexar County in Texas.

JD and Kai

In addition to a regular case load, she accompanies her Justin on local appearances about fire safety to local schools and at college level forensic classes. This valuable community outreach not only teaches children about fire safety, but also educates them that playing with fire is dangerous and in some instances, a crime.

Justin has nothing but praise for his canine companion. “I feel like, since she was from a shelter rescue, she’s a perfect example of what a shelter dog can accomplish if given the right opportunity,” Davis said.

Their relationship goes beyond investigating charred scenes. Kai is also a loving, loyal, social and obedient family member. At the end of the day, Kai makes the trip home with Justin where she’s a treasured member of his family.

In 2014, Justin Davis and Arson K9 Kai were recognized for their remarkable work at solving crime and saving lives when they won the American Humane Hero Dog Awards in the Arson Dog category. From the streets to the red carpet. It’s a true Cinderella story.

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