Seal Beach police K-9 Saurus in the running for title of top dog

K-9 Saurus poses with a police cruiser on the Seal Beach Pier.
Police K-9 Saurus came in 2021 to the Seal Beach Police Department, which put his apprehension and gun detecting skills to work.
(Courtesy of Seal Beach Police Department)

There are good dogs and great dogs, but who’s the best dog?

An online campaign taking place through Monday intends to identify the best service canines being employed by police, fire, search and rescue agencies across the nation and is offering $15,000 in donations to the top dog winners.

Members of the Seal Beach Police Department are pretty confident the city’s one-dog K-9 unit — 3-year-old German shepherd Saurus — has all the qualifications needed for a win.

Seal Beach police K-9 Saurus, right, is among 38 dogs competing for a $15,000 grant from Aftermath Services.
Seal Beach police K-9 Saurus, right, is among 38 dogs competing for a $15,000 grant from Aftermath Services. Online voting ends Monday.
(Screenshot by Sara Cardine)

Saurus is one of 38 service dogs in California submitted into the competition, run by Illinois-based Aftermath Services, which provides on-site incident cleanup and biohazard disposal at crime scenes and other incidents.

Supporters can vote once daily at and receive extra votes for following and commenting on the contest’s social media accounts. Cash donations, awarded to winning agencies based on size, must be used on related programming.

“It’s a means for us to try and acquire some additional funding for our K-9 program,” Sgt. Det. Jeff Gibson said Tuesday.

The department had been working without a K-9 unit for several decades when the funds became available to purchase and train a new dog to assist officers on patrol, Lt. Julia Clasby said Wednesday.


Seal Beach K-9 Officer Victor Ruiz poses for a selfie with police dog Saurus.
(Courtesy of Seal Beach Police Department)

Clasby and newly appointed K-9 handler Officer Victor Ruiz searched throughout Southern California, touring training facilities and special breeders looking for a canine with the right temperament and skills set.

An 18-month-old shepherd at Gold Coast K-9, a facility in Moorpark that trains home protection and service dogs used by police, caught their eye.

“He came to us with the name Saurus, and he’d already gone through all his training,” Clasby recalled. “Saurus is dual trained for apprehension and gun detection, so he’s able to detect a firearm, ammunition and firearm parts — he’s one of a very few dogs in the county that has that ability.”

Despite his natural aptitude, Saurus spent another nine weeks training alongside Ruiz and riding along with K-9 units in Huntington Beach, Garden Grove and Cypress to get a feel for the area and the work he’d be assigned to on the job.

Seal Beach police dog Saurus trains at Gold Coast K9 in Moorpark, to keep his apprehension and detection skills on point.
(Courtesy of Seal Beach Police Department)

Since his arrival, Saurus has provided assistance when a keen sense of smell, a knack for apprehension or a strong police presence is needed on scene. He undergoes eight hours of training each week, and an additional 30 minutes each shift to keep his skills sharp.

“They’re rappelling off the roofs of buildings, they’re going zip-lining through canyons and going in and out of cars,” Clasby said of Saurus’ regimen with Ruiz. “It’s a full-time, 24-hour, seven days a week, 365-day commitment.”

In April, the canine was brought out to assist State Park Police on a traffic stop and ended up alerting on a backpack inside the suspect vehicle that contained a handgun and a loaded magazine.

But for all his seriousness, Saurus is friendly enough to interact with the public, Clasby said. He also gets along with facility dog Yosa, a Lab/retriever mix who helps comfort victims, witnesses and trauma sufferers.

Different breeds have different abilities, Clasby explains. While the German shepherd and Belgian Malinois are skilled at apprehension, Labs and retrievers are good detectors and poodles and collies are adept at search and rescue.

Luckily for SBPD, however, Saurus is a dog of many talents.

“When we were deciding which dog to pick for our Seal Beach community, it had to be a dog that was athletically able to do patrol and apprehension, but also an intelligent dog to do searches and a friendly dog who could be hugged on by elementary students,” Clasby said.

“Saurus has been able to do all those things — he’s a really good boy.”

Voting ends Monday, and winners are to be announced Wednesday. To vote, visit

Seal Beach PD K-9 Saurus, off duty at the home of his handler, enjoys the company of a KONG classic chew toy.
(Courtesy of Seal Beach Police Department)