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Hot Dog! State Farm Arson Dog Training Class #53 Adds 15 New Teams in 2021

For the past 29 years, Special Agent Mitch Kushner with the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office has started and ended every day with the same routine – feeding his partner from his hand. It is the only way his canine partner eats, multiple times a day. Kushner is an accelerant detection canine handler, and as one of the longest certified working handlers in the world, he says he couldn’t imagine anything different. His current dog, K-9 GG, is more than happy to work for praise and a handful of dog food because she gets to spend every day with her best friend.

Arson is one of the most expensive and difficult property crimes to solve. A fire can be a complex event whose origin and cause are not obvious. Investigators may have to expend considerable time and effort before the cause can be identified. Without locating evidence, the investigator can only guess at what might have caused the fire, based on circumstances alone. Lack of time, money, and investigation support result in many fires remaining undetermined or not investigated at all.

Since 1993, State Farm has funded the acquisition and training of 425 arson dog teams across North America. These dogs help law enforcement and fire investigators locate evidence at arson crime scenes by using their incredible noses to pinpoint where gas, oil, or fuel has been used to start or accelerate a fire. An arson dog can not only help to speed up the evidence collection process, but it also increases the chance that an arsonist will be charged with a crime. Outside of state or federal agencies, there is no other company in North America that pays for the training of arson dog teams.

In 2021, Paul Gallagher and the Maine Specialty Dogs team trained 15 new teams (handler + canine) for the State Farm Arson Dog Program. Every team is certified by the Maine State Police under the guidelines of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy standard. Handlers spend four weeks in Concord, NH training with their new canine. Once they complete 200 hours of training and are certified as a team, the dog returns home to live, work, and retire in the home of their handler.

Congratulations to State Farm Arson Dog Training Class #53! To learn more about the program, where we acquire dogs and how they are trained, visit the State Farm Arson Dog Program website.

  1. Bryan Rigsby and K9 Harriett – Nashville Fire Department (Nashville, TN)
  2. Daniel Koehler and K9 Ruthie – Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office (Daytona Beach, FL)
  3. Paul Snider and K9 Buffett – Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office (Tampa, FL)
  4. Darcy Loewen and K9 Jersey – North Las Vegas Fire Department (North Las Vegas, NV)
  5. Dawn Tollis and K9 JoJo – Colorado Bureau of Fire Prevention and Control (Lakewood, CO)
  6. Johnathon Gaskins and K9 Bobby – New Bern Fire Department (New Bern, NC)
  7. John Papadakis and K9 Delta – South Pasadena Fire Department (South Pasadena, CA)
  8. Shawn Reiss and K9 Dinty – San Bernardino County Fire Department (San Bernardino, CA)
  9. John Peters and K9 Acorn – Westchester County Police Department (Hawthorne, NY)
  10. Matt Jones and K9 Clare – Collin County Fire Marshal’s Office (McKinney, TX)
  11. Sean O’Brien and K9 Boston – Reno Fire Department (Reno, NV)
  12. Shane Arndt and K9 Kit – Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office (Central and Eastern IL)
  13. Mitch Kushner and K9 GG – Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office (Chicago Metro, IL)
  14. Dan Hendrickson and K9 Captain – Big Spring Fire Department (Big Spring, TX)
  15. Bryan Phillips and K9 Star – Moore County Public Safety (Carthage, NC)
About State Farm®:

For 100 years, the mission of State Farm has and continues to be to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its 19,300 agents and nearly 55,000 employees serve approximately 86 million policies and accounts – which includes auto, fire, life, health, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 39 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit