The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office wants another K-9 officer. But with a strapped county budget, the department doesn’t have the money to purchase one. So, instead, it asked the community for help.
Law enforcement officials with the Sheriff’s Office have been fundraising since October to purchase a second K-9 for the department, said Russell Coover, patrol deputy and soon-to-be K-9 officer. To date, the Sheriff’s Office has raised about $17,000 through the National Police Dog Foundation, a nonprofit organization that “promotes education and awareness, and raises funds for the purchase, training and ongoing veterinary care for active and retired police K-9s,” according to the organization’s website.
The Sheriff’s Office has one K-9 officer already, a German shepherd named Jimmy, who has been with the department for about five years and is trained in tracking and narcotics detection. The Durango Police Department added a K-9 officer last year, a Belgian Malinois named Betty. Adding another K-9 to the Sheriff’s Office is warranted because the department has seen call volume increase in recent years, Coover said.
And by adding another K-9 to the Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement agencies in La Plata County will have enough dogs to have an animal on shift seven days a week, Coover said.
La Plata County law enforcement will look to Germany for a German shepherd. The German shepherds in the United States tend to be more sports-oriented, while German shepherds from Germany are more obedient and task-driven, Coover said.
“The drive is critical for the success of the team,” he said. “You want a dog with the drives to want to work and help to be successful.”
Getting a dog from Germany, training it and its handler can cost $14,000 to $18,000, Coover said. Betty cost the Durango Police Department about $12,000 – $8,000 for the dog and $4,000 for training.
Coldwell Banker in Durango has been fundraising on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office to purchase a police dog. K-9 officers are a benefit to the entire community, said Managing Broker Heather Erb. The real estate brokerage donated $2,500 from its own coffers and has raised another $875.
K-9s aren’t just for tracking criminals, Erb said. It took Jimmy just minutes to find a boy with autism after he went missing and officers and community members had searched for hours, she said. And K-9s can act as a deterrent to would-be criminals, Coover said. Many suspects surrender when a dog is present, he said.
The Sheriff’s Office isn’t budgeting for a K-9 officer because it’s not considered an essential item – especially with a price tag as high as it is, Coover said. The Durango Police Department was able to purchase Betty only after it received an anonymous donation last year.
And while the department has nearly raised enough to purchase a K-9 officer, it plans to continue to raise money to start saving for another one. The third dog will be a single-purpose animal – one trained in detecting contraband in the La Plata County Jail and in schools, Coover said.
“Jimmy’s got maybe a year or two more,” he said. “We want to keep the fundraising going for getting my dog, the K-9 in the jail and then a potential replacement for Jimmy when he retires.”