PORTAGE | The Portage Police Department is beginning efforts to reinstate its K-9 unit.
The department, which at one time had four police dogs, each working an individual shift, has been without a canine for just over a year. Its last dog, Eros, retired from the department in January 2012 after suffering a ruptured disc. The dog died about a month later.
Police Chief Troy Williams said the department did not have a policy in place at the time to replace the police dogs.
Last fall the department received a $9,000 grant from the Porter County Substance Abuse Council to be used toward the purchase of a police dog. However, the cost, Williams said, is $11,500 each if the department were to buy two dogs from Faus K-9 Specialties of Elkhart. The company has offered to sell the department a third police dog for $10,000.
The cost would cover the purchase of the dog and training for its handler.
Williams said dogs are "powerful tools for the police" to be used in building searches, tracking, protection, drug sniffing and crowd control among other things. They are also a good public relations tool, especially in the schools to help bridge the relationship between the department and youngsters, he said.
Williams said officials are in the process of interviewing potential handlers and have more officers interested than positions available.
However, the department is short of funds and is seeking donations to buy the dogs. Officials would like to buy at least two dogs this year and one each the next two years, unless sufficient funds are raised to purchase the third dog this year.
Williams said he hopes to raise $18,000 by the end of March for the purchase and to begin training April 1.
Anyone interested can send a donation to the Portage Police Department, 2693 Irving St., Portage, IN 46368, with K-9 Gift Fund written in the memo line.