The pup's handler says the pit bull is 'extremely excited' to begin working with the Millville Fire Department in New Jersey.

By Claudia Harmata
August 24, 2020

A 4-year-old rescue pit bull is believed to be the first of its breed to graduate as an arson detection K-9 officer.

In January, Hansel—who was rescued from a dogfighting ring in Ontario, Canada, when he was just a few weeks old—officially graduated from training and joined the Millville Fire Department in New Jersey, according to CNN.

“He’s extremely excited,” Tyler Van Leer, a firefighter and Hansel’s handler, tells the outlet. “Whenever I ask him, ‘Are you ready to go to work?’ and bring out the harness, he starts doing laps around the crate.”

After he was rescued from the dogfighting ring, Hansel, along with four other dogs (including his sister Gretel), were taken in by the Throw Away Dogs Project, a nonprofit in Philadelphia that rescues “unique” dogs and trains them to become K-9 officers.

Hansel the pit bull and Tyler Van Leer
Erik Larson/ Larson’s Images

According to CNN, the pup trained with the organization for a year before he was enrolled in a 16-week K-9 academy with Van Leer to become a certified arson detection dog. During the certification training, Hansel had to learn 14 different odors to graduate. He can now identify ignitable liquids like kerosene, gasoline, and diesel.

Erik Larson/ Larson’s Images
Erik Larson/ Larson’s Images

Hansel’s newest role is also paving the way for other pit bulls, and helping to break down the breed’s harsh stereotypes.

“I am 100 percent sure Hansel is the first pit bull arson detection dog in New Jersey,” Carol Skaziak, the founder of Throw Away Dogs, tells CNN. “I have done so much research and I don’t believe there are any other pit bull arson detection dogs in the entire country. I have not found any others.”

“We need police chiefs and fire chiefs around the country to want to do this, too. This is the first step that could make a huge statement for this breed that has been so misunderstood,” she says.

Speaking to ABC, Van Leer says he’s excited to begin working with Hansel, telling the outlet it felt like fate when they met.

“It was like an instant bond—his little head poked around the corner and it was like an instant connection. You could feel it,” Van Leer says.

This Story Originally Appeared On People