A growing number of police agencies are using K-9 units. At least two departments in the central Wisconsin area are in the process of getting their own. This comes at a time of growing drug addiction in the area.
Foster is one of three K-9 units with The Wausau Police Department. Officer Foster loves tennis balls, so that’s exactly how his handler rewards him when he does something good, like finding illegal drugs. “Foster’s sense of smell is so strong that not only could he smell the illegal drugs, but he could also smell them through a sealed glass container,” said David Landretti, Foster’s handler. The K-9 units help with everything from finding drugs, to searching for missing people, and even connecting with the community. The units are so effective that a growing number of police departments are adding them. The Marathon County Sheriff’s Department is in the process of getting two dogs. “The atmosphere, I think, with the whole department is it’s something that’s long overdue,” said Lt. Bill Millhausen of the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s department paid for the new dogs and their training with donations from the community. They are still looking for more donations to pay for equipment for the units. Officers agree, the K-9 units are a major asset to combat the area’s growing drug problem. The Merrill Police Department has been relying heavily police dogs during narcotics searches, but they don’t actually have their own. According to Merrill Police Chief Ken Neff, the Merrill Police Department has called on neighboring departments for K-9 assistance 40 times since July. The police department recently received a grant from the Bierman Family Foundation to get it own K-9 officer. “The way it will change is that we’ll have a much more aggressive drug enforcement tool than what we have now,” said Neff. He says he hopes to have the unit ready by next summer.