Olentangy Valley News

$20K raised to fund city K-9 unit

Dog may join Powell police force, thanks to donors

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The Powell Police Department is looking to the kennel instead of the police academy to find its next recruit.

At the April 2 meeting of City Council, Police Chief Gary Vest said the police department is ready to move forward with plans to add a K-9 unit to the local police force, thanks to fundraising efforts by a group of volunteers.

Members of the Powell Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association have raised nearly $20,000 in the past nine months to support the purchase of a police dog and help pay for ongoing costs such as food and veterinary bills.

"We've had quite a few people donating to our cause, and everyone seems to be pretty excited about it," said Citizen Police Academy alum Anne Wiseman.

She said the group easily topped the goal of raising $15,000, so some pledges won't be collected.

If all goes according to plan, the dog could be working by October, Vest said.

It will probably be a German shepherd, he said, though other breeds such as the Belgian Malinois are popular choices for local police departments.

Police dogs are able to sniff out drugs during traffic stops and could track the direction of a fleeing burglar during a crime-scene investigation.

A dog also potentially could help locate missing children. Vest said police dogs are trained to track by scent as well as sight.

"If we have a missing child, the sooner we could get the dog to the scene, the sooner we could recover that child safely," he said.

Powell's dog would be trained to react passively. That means when it detects drugs, it will approach the location and sit down.

It also would be able to attend community events and be petted by children and passersby.

The training period for the dog and handler takes about six months, Vest said.

One police officer will be selected to keep the dog as its handler. The dog will stay at his or her home at night.

On most days, the dog will work the night shift, between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., and be used for business checks and other patrol duties.

An existing police vehicle will be equipped to carry the dog. To make up for that cost, the department will keep one of its cruisers a bit longer than dictated by its vehicle replacement plan.

The money raised by the Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association will pay for all costs for "a couple of years," Vest said.

He added he's confident the group will be a reliable partner to help fund ongoing costs for the care of the dog in years to come.

The base cost to purchase and train a dog and handler is about $13,000.

"It's a great asset to the community and I believe it's very doable, financially," he said.

The Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association launched the fundraising effort last June.

In addition to raising money, the group collected more than 300 signatures expressing support for the plan.

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