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Hampton Roads Dog Trainer Service Dogs Search and Rescue Pet Search Boot Camps Boarding Group Class

Kim Willis

Kim started her canine training career at age seven and her equine experience at age nine.  She knows horses as well as dogs.  At 7 she was going door to door asking to walk dogs for free, and during those walks she would teach them manners and obedience. The owners would give her a small amount of money, which she would enjoy at the local 7-11.  That was to change at age 9 when her mom promised she could have a horse, and her parents would pay the board if she could raise the money to buy it. 


From age 9 to 12 Kim earned money working with dogs, cutting grass, baby-sitting, etc.  She saved all her allowance, and never ate any goodies her parents got her, but when her brothers ran out she sold them hers and got their allowances as well.  Soon she had enough.  At the age of twelve, she sought out the right friends who helped her find her horse, arrange transport, and found a place to board it. She had that horse six years and successfully showed in speed and performance events such as barrels, the dangerous rider pick up, an old revamped version of a medieval event call ring spearing, pole bending, and other speed events.  She spent several years working, training and conditioning a full string of polo ponies and exercised racehorses and jockeyed on off track grass races including starting gates in her 20's, later on spending some time doing some competitive trail riding.  She studied Equine Management in college to further her education.  She went on to start a property management business overusing as many as six large estates usually several hundred acres with horses and other livestock.  She became proficient in the design and running of equine facilities.   


During her younger years she walked dogs, house sat dogs (with some being professional kennels) while owners were away, did basic training, volunteered at shelters, and worked in grooming shops.  She trained with many master trainers starting with her first one in her teens under a school program called DECA.  The school did not feel dog training would fit the program criteria, but somehow Kim convinced them otherwise and her program path became dog training.  She worked with a Master Trainer for the whole school year and got an A on her final.       

Kim started her law enforcement career in Kansas with the Sheriff’s Department on a special DUI task force created by a federal task force to bring about new standards in DUI enforcement, and that they did.  Kim arrested over 1,000 DUI’s in less then a year, a record that has never been exceeded.  The unit was written up all over the US setting new standards and being named expert witnesses in the field all in the mid to late 80’s. This is also where she started her search and rescue career doing mounted SAR with her Quarter Horse in 1984.  But she missed home and returned to work on the Virginia Beach Police Department where she worked street patrol and as a detective in the 4th precinct .  She retired in 1999 as a Master Police Officer/Detective from an on the job injury.  After that she went full time into volunteer work in Search and Rescue both ground search, incident command and training SAR K9 teams until 2007 when she established Kustom K9 Training.  It was her goal to offer her many distinctive, and often hard to find disciplines to the public.  She also realized volunteer work is expensive, and if she wanted to keep volunteering she needed to go back to work.     

Besides being a successful breeder of show and performance dogs, she has put 59 titles and certifications on her Ridgebacks just since since 1994, assisted many others with titles, trained K9 teams for and with many search and rescue units, created K9 units, K9 sections, and standard operating procedures.  Since 1995 she has fully trained from start to finish 11 K9 SAR teams.  Seven of those with multiple scent discipline certifications.  A high point of Kim's SAR training was having four of her own dogs certified and working all at the same time with them all having multiple scent discipline certifications, and her dogs being highlighted at the Ridgeback world congress in Ireland in 2007.   

For more information on Kim’s SAR titles and write up, visit her K9 page.  Some of her areas of titles include: 

Canine Good Citizen—AKC
Therapy Dog both standard and disaster (Therapy Dog International)
Obedience—AKC and North American Police Work Dog Association 
Weight Pulling—International Weight Pullers Association
Barn Hunt—Barn Hunt Association
Lure Coursing—A Sight Hound Field Trial event, AKC, ASFA
Tracking—North American Police Work Dog Association
Man Trailing—North American Police Work Dog Association
Area Search—North American Police Work Dog Association
Article/Evidence Search—North American Police Work Dog Association

Kim has worked with Master Trainers like Harold Bennett the former President of North American Police Work Dog Association, and their affiliation is still in place.  She has worked with Internationally Renowned European Master Trainers Carla van Duyvenbode, and Fred Samseer in Schutzhund.  As a well-respected trainer Kim has 17 nationally, internationally, and Internet published K9 training articles, and has been featured in many more as a breeder and trainer.  Kim believes that a well-rounded trainer needs to prove they can be successful in many different disciplines, working with many different breeds, and she continues this path/education throughout their career.  She believes this is what it takes to be able to fully assist owners with their dogs.   

At this time Kim works as a volunteer for human searches under CERT, and charges a fee for her pet search work to help support her volunteer work.  She is a State of Virginia certified professional ground searcher Field Team Member (and having been promoted to Field Team Leader twice on searches), which includes wilderness first aid and survival training, trained as a Man Tracker level I, and has training in all phases of disaster first responder and incident command.  She is currently the City of Chesapeake Community Emergency Response Team, K9 Operations Leader-Trainer, Operational K9 Team, and is now starting a Disaster Therapy K9 group helping with Critical Incident Stress Management at mass casualty incidents and disasters.  She has already completed a full set of SAR K9 and disaster therapy dog SOPs for CERT.  Chesapeake CERT is under the Chesapeake Fire Department.  She is a co-founder and member of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, that works with Chesapeake's Emergency Management, and the city's County Extension office on disaster animal issues, along with co-foundering the city's CART, that helps and shelters pets in disaster situations. 


To add to all that, Kim researches natural canine health daily to enable her to empower and educate clients in everything from better feeding practices, health and nutrition, vaccinations and myths, the behind the scene stuff in the world of pet food manufacturers, vet practices, and more. This kind of education has spanned a lifetime, but over the last ten years she has hit overdrive in her education with all the deaths from pet foods.  After having been in this field for 55 years Kim has seen fades come and go, and has seen how it has evolved.  This kind of insight can only be achieved with 30, 40 and 50 years of being in the same field.  This allows her to teach what is needed and to not waste time on myth and fade training.  

Some other areas of Kim’s training:

  • Attends Mass Casualty and disaster drills yearly

  • Animal Response I & II, FEMA for CERT/CART (Community Emergency Response Team and Community Animal Response Team both large and small animal rescue & sheltering)

  • The Humane Society of the US – National Conference on Animals in Disaster. (24 hours)

  • The Humane Society of the US – National Conference on Animals in Disaster, Emergency Sheltering of Animals in Disaster Workshop (8 hours)

  • Sky Warn Advanced Weather Spotter National Weather Service Wakefield, VA

  • Virginia Public Safety Outreach Conference and training (two years 30 hours)

  • FEMA ICS, 700, 800, 100, 200, 300, 400 (incident command staff trained)

  • CERT Training course

  • CERT Instructor & Rapid Damage Assessment

  • CERT train he trainer

  • Dementia, and traits of lost person w/autism (Project Lifesaver)

  • OSHA, HAZMAT, Blood Born Pathogens

  • Basic & Advanced First Aid

  • Wilderness First aid (a two day course) ARC

  • Pet First Aid and CPR

  • Man Tracking Level one (40 hours)

  • International Society of Professional Trackers conference. Holiday Lakes 4-H Appomattox, VA, (30 hours)

  • K9 Legal Update National Expert Terry Fleck, update on legalities of K9 deployment (8 hours)

  • Critical Incident Stress Management class 2 days

  • Gang violence issues for EMS and SAR persons

  • Disaster and Terrorism with State Trooper Special Agent Chip Turner

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction classes: Prevention and Response to Suicide Bombing Incidents, and Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings, 8 hours. (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, New Mexico Tech)

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction – U.S. Department of Homeland Security, by Texas A & M University – (24 hours)

  • Mass casualty incident Management I and II FEMA

  • Hostage/Crisis Negotiations School – Federal Bureau of Investigations – Virginia Beach Virginia, Became an alternate on the Police Hostage Negotiation Team for VBPD

  • 1984-1999 Three police Academies, specialized training in many aspects of police work including special DUI task force team supported by the federal govt. and expert witness on DUI detection and apprehension, fatality accident team, police detective, officer survival school, hostage negotiation team, retiring as Master Police Officer from an on the job injury. 

Kim lost her last retired SAR dog Tazz in 2017.  She acquired 2 new puppies, now age 4 certified with NAPWDA. 


Kim strives to prove via third party validation the titles, certifications, and positions she has achieved and offers the below information.       


American Kennel Club,  (obedience, agility, lure coursing)

International Weight Puller Association

2001/2002 pulling stats, region 11 (VA), and out of region 7 (NC)

The American Sighthound Field Association

Therapy Dog International

North American Police Work Dog Association

Barn Hunt Association

Bobby Gelormine

Senior Planner

Chesapeake Fire Dept / Office of Emergency Management

2130 South Military Highway

757.382.1778 Office  

Kim has been a member of CERT since 2003 and her dogs approved in 2007, first officially approved CERT K9's in the USA, all volunteer with SAR K9s and disaster therapy dogs for local, state and national disasters or lost persons. 


Jim Watson, Secretary of North American Police Work Dog Association.  Click on link to verify his contact information by his name under the state of OH.  He can verify all scent, and obedience certifications done with them since 2005, 888-422-6463.  


View retired SAR K9s.  “Under "Virginia".

Harold Bennett Master Trainer was President of NAPWDA now trustee and still working certifications.  He has done Kim's past SAR K9 certifications under NAPWDA. to verify his contact information by his name under the state of VA. 



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