make WWAY your homepage  Become a fan on facebook  Follow us on twitter  Receive RSS Newsfeeds  MEMBERS: Register | Login

Dep. Zeller remembers his K9 partner Viper

READ MORE: Dep. Zeller remembers his K9 partner Viper

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- The Brunswick County Sheriff's Office is grieving after losing a dedicated K-9 this weekend during a drug investigation.

According to the Sheriff's Office the Drug Enforcement Unit was investigating in the Ash area around 7:30 p.m. Saturday when K-9 Viper, a Belgian Malinous, and his handler Dep. Jared Zeller were called out to help search for a large amount of cocaine.

When they found the drugs, Viper bit through the plastic wrap and the tape surrounding the two-pound package of cocaine, which led to a severe reaction from ingesting it. Viper was taken to to a veterinary hospital in Southport, where he was pronounced dead.

Zeller says he and Viper were more than just partners.

"They come home with us," said Zeller. "They interact with us. He was a member of my family.

He says Viper's final act of service was a testament to how much the canines do for the community.

"They can find that lost child that's in the woods that we couldn't find," said Zeller. "They can smell the odor of narcotics inside a car or inside a home."

He and Viper would train for six hours every week to keep them as sharp as possible. They were hardly ever separated during their time together and he says things just won't be the same.

"I think the hardest thing is going to be when I go back to work, not putting him in the car, not having him ride around with me," said Zeller. "It's going to be tough."

There will be a memorial service in Viper's honor Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. at the Sheriff's Office in Bolivia.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.



"The foolish and the dead never change their opinions."
-- James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American poet, critic and editor.

I think we know which one is a good fit for you.

No, I don't think we do, so

No, I don't think we do, so why don't you be specific.


Duh...let's see now. You're writing (asinine) responses to these posts, so you're obviously breathing and not dead. Although you could be brain dead. You're some kind of doctor in neurology, right? I would think you could recognize the difference.

But now that I think about it, you're right. Foolish vs. brain's a tough choice. I apologize for the confusion.

Dog didn't have a choice

These dogs don't have a choice to go in or not, they are trained to play a game to find their toy, a treat or to please their handler. Thats one reason I hate the circus and believe its a form of animal abuse.

If these handlers care so much for these animals, why do they send them into situations were they could be shot or stabbed and all the dog has is it's teeth to protect themselves? Meanwhile the cop hides behind something with his gun drawn? They sit in cages in a car waiting for the next game....

I think sniffer dogs are useful in tracking people and sniffing out bombs, but this "war on drugs" thing is hypocritical when the state is in the liquor buisness and makes more money on tobacco than the manufacturers...

First off these partners of

First off these partners of the handler are not put out in front, it is a team effort, the handler helps protect the dog and the dog helps the handler, the dogs are more loyal than most people in this country, I trust my partner more than alot of people, as for the remark of using the dog to locate people or bombs is a contradiction to your comment, people shoot and stab and if your not aware bombs explode, narcotic detection is alot safer than your suggestion, deputy from one handler to another be strong and proud of your partner and my thoughts are with you and your family

I hate it that the dog died, too....

...and I agree that our War on Drugs is a total failure, but police can't choose which laws they enforce. These dogs are highly trained tools for law enforcement, spoiled rotten, and live a very enjoyable, comfortable life as a member of the handler's family.

Yes, they face risks and we occasionally lose one, but that's part and parcel of simply being in law enforcement: You have to deal with the worst elements in society and sometimes men, women, and dogs don't make it home from their shift.

I'm sure Viper had a life that most dogs would envy. He got to spend every day playing and working with the person he loved while most dogs doze or simply watch the world go by until we get home from work and manage to pay them some attention.

My sincerest hope is that the two maggots who caused Viper's death spend many, MANY years in prison being used as the playtoys of a very large man named Bubba, and beaten up regulary by some psychotic heavyweight boxer who ran afoul of the law.

I beg to differ..These dogs

I beg to differ..These dogs LOVE going to work, which I am sure is more than I can say for you. These dogs work very hard everyday. I'm sure they would love to show you a demonstration, or better yet why don't you talk to someone that had a missing family member and because of these well trained dogs was able to locate that person, or the drugs and weapons that have been located in childrens rooms that without the dogs being able to sniff it out wouldn't have been located, or a house gets broken into and the suspects run and hides in the woods and because of these dogs sense of smell they are able to be captured. I hope that one day you get the pleasure of needing one of these amazing dogs. You obviously have no idea how bad the drug problem is in this nation and this county. Or maybe you do and you just don't want to get caught.

I'm Sure

You don't know me or what I may or may not love. I'm not a drug dealer or user. Your reading comprehention is in question, I said dogs are useful at certain jobs. How do you know these dogs LOVE to go to "work"? How do you know they aren't just happy to get out of their cage to play, run and jump? I have two dogs that I love and would never intentionally put them in harms way.

"I'm sure they would love to show you a demonstration" There ya go, you want someone you don't even know to be bitten by one of these dogs. Do they LOVE biting people too? Do they get paid, pay taxes, draw a pension....

These dogs

These dogs don't have a choice because they are there to protect and serve. Their handlers send them into situations where they could be shot or stabbed to keep officers and the public safe.

This "war on drugs thing" may be hypocritical, but it's still the law. If it isn't enforced, that leaves the door open for a meth lab to move next door to you and explode in your face, or your child's face. It might move in there anyway, but these K9's wage a war against it everyday.

You seem to care about animals, so you should show a little respect for the sacrifice that K9 Viper made.

Good Boy Viper! He will be missed!

that dog worked every day of his life to protect and serve the citizens of Brunswick County. Did you ever stop to think that if you were in distress and needed assistance from this officer and his K9 (or any officer for that fact) that that dog would have given his life for you too? These officers go out on the streets everyday putting their lives on the line for you. But until you need them yourself you do not realize how important they are. Stop being so close-minded and selfish and realize that there are other people besides yourself in this world. This dog took a very large amount of drugs off the streets that will not end up in anyone else's hands. Drugs are a large root of many violent crimes. The next time you’re sitting home alone just remember that you may not be as safe as you think. At anytime anyone could decide that they are going to break into your house and rob you so they can get more drugs. Things like this happen and they happen to ignorant people like you. I hope you change your way of thinking and realize that this dog was more than a dog and you should be proud that your tax money is paying to honor a hero! Ignorance gets you nowhere fast bud.


First off, my condolences to the Zeller family for losing a partner and for BCSO for losing a valuable asset/officer. To the whining commentators on here whom are taxpayers, you want your ten cents back? Seriously? Do you not think we pay taxes too out are we magically exempt. Let new have your address and I will send you a buck to shut you up. Moving on, K-9's and their handlers are given rigorous training to ensure their detect what they are looking for, also bite work. Duh, it's certification needed for court. So unless you know much what happened on scene, and you won't because not everything is ever in the news, keep it respectful people. The dog worked for chew toys, food, and the enjoyment of finding what his handler sent him after. A K9 can track scents, items, and people alot faster than a human officer could last I checked which makes them a great partner, not a tool (which is inanimate). Saves you taxpayers money so they can get to your barking dog noise complaints. Thanks!

A common goal

An extension of the deputy's mission in the line of duty has, tragically, been extinguished . It is sad for all. Salute.


My take is that this dog was trained for a job and died performing it. It was a public service job so we the public should appreciate the contribution (animal or human) that it made. I think the memorial is more for the people who were close knit with the dog so the friends and family can help them with the grief. I know from war experience that you form a very strong bond (typically life long) in a very short time when you face life threatening circumstances together. Just like the first chimp in space this animal served man in a special role so give it it's just due.


this brave dog deserve a medal.

I'm sorry if this sounds a

I'm sorry if this sounds a little insensitive but I can't believe they're going to have an actual memorial. Are the taxpayers footing this horrible waste of time when the officers could be out doing something more useful?

Yes, you are right, your

Yes, you are right, your comment is insensitive and ignorant. OFFICER VIPER was not just a dog, he was an OFFICER, a public servant who put his life on the line everyday to protect and serve the citizens of this county. Unfortunately, he paid the ultimate price to do that thankless job. You are obviously not a citizen who appreciates the benefits of living in this county being protected by the public servants who willingly go out every day, putting their own safety at risk to make sure that others are safe. If it is your tax dollars you are worried about, don't you think there are more pressing issues of abuse of tax dollars in this county to complain about? Like the county commissioner who cost hundreds of dollars to the tax payer, not just once but twice now for false accusations. Or how about the taxes wasted on the typical welfare recipient who has never worked a day in their life, yet gets paid more to sit at home and have more kids? Really, do you really have nothing better to do with your time than to write offensive, insensitive and ignorant posts?

Viper wasn't a pet...he was an OFFICER!

What is so hard to understand? The dog was an active officer and people have the nerve to question having a memorial service for him? You best better believe though if a dog was needed to track down a thief or rapist or to find a missing person, citizens would think a little more of it. Come on! Even if you can't seem to sympathize on the dogs part, do it for the handler. They spend countless hours off-duty training their dogs so that this county can be a safer place. Not only did the handler lose his best friend and companion, he lost his partner! By the way, it doesn't cost much to bury an animal and it cost nothing for officers to stand outside for a memorial. If it's anything like funerals for the families of the deputies, the ones that come in to help with it are OFF-DUTY! You probably won't lose one cent over it. I'm glad we could educate you on the role of an ACTIVE K-9 OFFICER!

Hey Ann, You didn't educate

Hey Ann,

You didn't educate me on anything but to think you did shows you have very high self-efficacy and that's good. Get over it.

Are you serious?

"Are the taxpayers footing this horrible waste of time when the officers could be out doing something more useful?"

Are you serious? If the officers were "out doing something more useful", they were doing it with Viper right in the middle of it. From tracking drugs to searching for lost kids/elderly, to protecting life and property. Viper did it all; and he did it all for a dog biscuit and some love and respect. What have you done lately?

"Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid." - John Wayne


Yeah, I 100% believe that the taxpayers should foot the bill. Everybody who keeps saying "it's just a dog" don't realize what he did. His whole life was dedicated to serving the citizens by always being on call, being trained 7 days a week (including holidays and weekends), & saving lives. If it were a deputy/officer who was shot in the line of duty you wouldn't be saying "well it was just somebody doing their job." Viper was just as much a law enforcement officer as anybody else.

He's just a dog living in

He's just a dog living in the moment...he never knew what hit him, and he sure didn't have any noble intent. We should all take a lesson.

If a cop is killed in the

If a cop is killed in the line of duty it's sad BUT they chose to do one made them. STILL JUST A DOG.

It's not a choice it's a

It's not a choice it's a calling. Only the most courageous, honorable, selfless are willing to go out and risk their lives to help others. You obviously are not one of this character and would not understand the meaning of sacrifice if it jumped up and bit you in the butt! Without our officers and I do mean all officers, both human and K9, this world would be a whole lot different. Who would you have to call when you needed help? Some food for thought there.

You're an idiot.

Your hatered for cops is very evident. We get it, now please shut up buttercup. You look for ANY LEO story so you can post. I assume you didn't cut in rookie school? One of them took your wife? Gave you a ticket? Okay okay, really we understand. You don't like them. Got it. Now please take that sailboat of yours and sail away and don't come back. Go to a magical land where no LEO's work. Have fun. Don't bother writting.

You are so right Mr Grand

You are so right Mr Grand Ole Party, as I don't have much use for them. I don't post that much on leo issues but I thought this one was very asinine. I never aspired to be an officer of the law although they have a job to do as well. No, I must inform you that none of them stole my wife or gave me a ticket but it't obvious that you love them to death and that's alright. What you can't tell me is what to think or say and I would never own a sailboat.

Have a great day Mr. Grand Ole Party. (smiling while I type that).

I believe it too

I'll gladly help foot the bill for a decent tribute to Viper. I would much rather my tax dollars go there than to line some polician's pockets or pay for another baseball field.

Viper deserves a heartfelt tribute for all he has done for the citizens of Brunswick and surrounding counties.



Are you serious???? This was

Are you serious???? This was an officer!!!!! He put his life on the line EVERYDAY!!! He deserves a memorial service!

Yes he was a valuable TOOL

Yes he was a valuable TOOL for the Sheriff Dept BUT he was a dog. It was a shame he died BUT a memorial is just too silly. I'd be surprised they don't have a 21 gun salute,a horse drawn hearse, bagpipes, declare it a state holiday, a fly over by the helicopter and anything else they can think of. If he was a cop where is his completion of a BLET course, his record of handgun time on the range or any other things relevant to be coming a sworn officer. He was a DOG used as a TOOL to aid the officers. My dog can sniff out doughnuts does that make him a cop in disguise?

K-9 Viper

It was a wonderful service. There was a 21 gun salute, bagpipes and a flag presentation...As a member of the law enforcement family -- you need a service for some type of closure to the death of a officer, dog or human. I think this was a wonderful idea for them to have the service.