The Sheriff's Office may have found a young dog worthy of taking over K-9 patrol for "Destro," who died unexpectedly in early October.
A 2-year-old Belgian malinois from the nation of Holland is being evaluated by Deputy Chris Erion, the Sheriff's Office current K-9 handler, and if the dog proves suitable, the county will pay a $9,500 fee for purchase, shipment and paperwork on the dog.
That's about $1,000 more than anticipated but the cost is also amply covered by donations from members of the community to the Sheriff's K-9 program.
Erion said this morning that he has the dog -- who has a name but the name may change -- and is working with him to see if is temperament is suitable for police work. This morning, he's returning from the K-9 training facility in Canada where he was given a workout.
"We're putting him through his paces," Erion said.
The dog has only basic training at this point and will need to be fully trained in K-9 police work before being put into service. That training will start in March.
The fundraising following Destro's death has been so successful -- and there are more fundraising events planned -- that the Sheriff's Office will acquire a second K-9. Undersheriff Greg Walker said the new, second K-9 handler has already been selected from among current deputies but the Sheriff's Office is not ready yet to announce who the new handler will be.
Even though payment for the new dog is covered by community donations, the money still goes into the county's budget and the expenditure must be approved by the Legislature. The Public Service Committee voted to recommend approval of the $9,500 fee for the new dog from Holland.
At the Public Service meeting yesterday, a member of the Legislature asked why the K-9 money came from public donations rather than the county's general fund and Legislator Gary Maha, the former Sheriff, explained that when the Sheriff's Office first decided to acquire a K-9 the decision was made to ask the community to pay for it.
There have been four dogs purchased since then, each one paid for through donations and that just seems to be the way it's done now. There was nothing preventing the Sheriff's Office from including a new K-9 in its operations budget.
In this case, as soon as the news came out of Destro's death, who succumbed to complications from cancer surgery, community members set up fundraisers and donations started pouring in.
Legislator John Hilchey suggested he and his fellow legislators wouldn't have a problem funding the K-9 program, but "the community didn’t really give us a chance to ask on it."