OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - The State of Oklahoma Department of Corrections has big plans for a dozen bloodhound puppies who were born this week. 

Once they turn 12 weeks old, the litter will be trained for 20 months to assist the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, local and state law enforcement agencies in fugitive apprehension and other tracking efforts, the DOC said in a news release. 

The puppies will provide each prison facility in the state with at least one dog trained in scent-specific tracking, according to the DOC.

Prior to the new litter, the DOC did not have enough dogs at facilities in the state to track an inmate and would have to deploy dogs from a different facility.

Often times when the tracking dogs arrived at the facility the scent would be gone or indistinguishable for the dog to pick up on, officials said. 

The need for scent-specific tracking dogs goes beyond the department and fugitive apprehension efforts and into communities across the state that call when they need assistance, said Corrections Director Joe M. Allbaugh. 

“One of our most recent calls for assistance was from a local police department after a Silver Alert was issued,” Allbaugh said. “We were able to bring a hound out, locate the individual who had left a facility treating them for Alzheimer’s and bring them back safely. “For the DOC, protecting the public goes beyond our facilities, and it is an honor to serve the citizens of the state in more ways than one.”

The dogs are also deployed to aid in manhunts for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, local sheriff's offices and police departments, officials said. 

The bloodhounds are also helpful in cases of lost children.

The OHP said it routinely calls on the DOC and the scent-specific tracking dogs to assist in search efforts. 

“The majority of our dogs are trained for narcotics or explosives, not to track a fugitive or a lost child,” Thompson said. “It is a significant and valuable asset for us when you can call in a trained bloodhound and experienced dog handler to assist in an emergency situation. The program works well to ensure public safety on all fronts.”

After the puppies are trained, that will bring the DOC's total to 30 bloodhounds used specifically for tracking. 

The DOC also has 13 narcotics dogs, two cellphone dogs and 11 being trained for various specialties. 

“We have a versatile group of dogs we can use in a number of different situations, which is why we get calls from communities,” said K-9 Program Coordinator Richard Price. “We are pleased with the progress of the current program and excited about the possibilities of what fugitive apprehension efforts of the future looks like for the state. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

In addition to helping prisons and communities across the state, the in-house training and breeding program is saving the department thousands of dollars it would have to spend purchasing a fully-trained dog, Allbaugh said.

“Our goal is for this program to be a model for other states and agencies facing similar problems to ours,” Allbaugh said. “We are going to continue to utilize and prioritize the program to ensure we can put a stop to contraband, fleeing inmates and help our communities when they are in need.”