Shelter dog gets new job, helps bust child predators

K9 Gia

BRADENTON, FL (WFLA) – A former shelter dog is now fighting crime and stopping child predators in Manatee County. Sheriff’s deputies added a shelter dog named Gia to their K-9 unit.

Bishop Animal Shelter photo
Bishop Animal Shelter photo

She’s trained to find hidden computer hard drives, flash drives and SD cards that may contain child porn. Pedophiles often stash away these incriminating devices, and Gia’s one of a handful of dogs in the entire world that’s trained to find them.

“She’s like using a flashlight in a dark room. Because you just want that extra tool to kind of help you,” Detective Joni Zimmermann said.

Manatee County deputies say Gia’s background makes her one of a kind. Last summer, detectives decided to adopt their new deputy to save money and help the local pet population. Officials felt confident they could train her.

“Why do we want to buy a dog trained already, when we can (train) it in house, save the money?” Lt. Richie Cunningham said. “They’re just like any other dog. They’ve just been abandoned in a shelter … When you’re starting to deal with just odor work, you’re using a function of the dog that all dogs, which is the capability of smelling.”

Gia was a stray when she was dropped off at the Bishop Animal Shelter.

Bishop Animal Shelter photo
Bishop Animal Shelter photo

“She was more on the timid side because she didn’t realize what was going on or why was she suddenly in this kennel,” Samantha Dominis with the Bishop Animal Shelter said.

But once adopted, Gia learned quickly. Now she’s already working with detectives on child porn investigations.

She’s proving invaluable. Finding a small flash drive in a large house is next to impossible, deputies said. “That’s not realistic to think that a human can come in and find that,” Lt. Cunningham said.

Gia went from living on the streets to getting criminals off the streets. “Once they’re adopted they really do blossom into what they were truly meant to be,” Dominis said.

One of the reasons there are so few K-9s like Gia is because it’s a new field. It gained prominence because specialized K-9 dogs were used to find child porn at the home of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle last year. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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