WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) – It may be hard to believe, but the county with the most square miles in the state and a growing drug problem does not have their own police dogs. An effort is underway to change that.
Marathon County Sheriff’s Department’s K9 Paws Enforcing Laws program is working to raise money to acquire and care for at least two police dogs. The Sheriff’s Department hasn’t had their own dog since the early 1990’s.
Chief Deputy Chad Billeb says the need is definitely there for police dogs, especially with the increased drug problems. “With the recent developments throughout the community, as many people know, the problems we’re having with controlled substances, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, the sheriff’s department feels that there is a significant need to get more dogs out on the street, and specifically into some of those rural areas that are underserved.”
With Marathon County Sheriff’s Department relying on other departments when they need a dog, Billeb says it makes it difficult with so many square miles to cover. “There’s a certain amount of time we have within which to make a stop, make contact with the operator of a vehicle, and then have a dog available for us, and out in the county, that isn’t always able to happen. We rely heavily on dogs from the metro area here, and on the west end of the county, in Abbotsford we have some access to the dog, and Marshfield’s dogs, but we do not have one at the department.”
It takes about $15,000 to acquire a police dog. The department is applying for local grants and funds that may be available through drug enforcement programs. When they are able to purchase a K9 officer, the Sheriff’s Department intends to use the same source that supplied many of the area’s other police dogs. “We would be sending our officer down to Indiana for six weeks to get acquainted with the dog and trained, and honestly, the officer has to be trained more than the dog does.”
Over the course of seven years, Billeb says they will need about $25,000 per animal. They are looking at eventually getting between two and four K9 officers due to the size of the county.
Figuring out which patrol officer will become a K9 handler is not easy. Interested deputies had to apply for the opportunity. “They have to submit a resume, they have to do a cover letter, and they will be going through an interview and selection process which is going to include officers from the local area who manager their K9’s to get a feel for which officers on the sheriff’s department would be best suited to have a dog.”
The K9 Paws Enforcing Laws effort is only a week old, but Billeb says several businesses and individuals have helped with their fundraising efforts. “The businesses that have stepped up really have just come to meet with us and provide ideas and resources, things that normally we wouldn’t have thought of on our own because they’ve got marketing professionals and professional writers that they work with who have really just given a whole lot of hope a lot of encouragement along the way.”