Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officers hope enough funds are in place to acquire a new K-9 partner before the new year.
“It’s been a priority since (Director Jeff) Hawke got here,” said Sgt. Mike Ercole, who previously handled two dogs for the department.
Ercole said the department’s entire staff is involved in getting the campaign rolling.
Although local police can use K-9 units through the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department and state police, “it’s all about access,” Ercole said. “There’s no waiting around.”
Hawke said the department hasn’t had a dog since Remax left in 2010.
“We didn’t get another dog right away,” he said. “Funding was very tight. The program was discontinued.”
Hawke said the department has already had several generous donations toward the expected $17,000 to $20,000 cost. That breaks down to about $10,000 to purchase the dog, training and retrofitting an existing patrol car with the kennel they already own. Hawke said veterinary services and dog food will be donated.
Hawke said the police dog would track criminals, lost children and vulnerable adults, look for illegal drugs, and locate evidence. The dog can also be used for community relations.
“It will be a fantastic tool for connecting with kids,” Hawke said. “Our dog will be making many visits in conjunction with our D.A.R.E. officer to the schools. We’ll work to pursue good relationships with kids of elementary school age.”
The department will be taking applications for the dog handler.
“The handler has to build a bond with the dog,” Hawke said. The handler “has to be a very skilled public safety officer in all areas of the job to take on the extra responsibility. There’s an extra level of dedication and availability to take on the K-9 unit.”
Hawke said once a handler is selected, they would pick a dog provider and then the dog. After that, a recommendation would be made to City Council for final approval.
The dog will most likely be either a German, Dutch or Belgian shepherd.
“We want a very social dog,” Hawke said. “We want to make sure we get the right dog for the department and the community.”
Re/Max Grand Haven is hosting a fundraising event for the new dog at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Haven Eagles. Tickets are $10. Prizes will also be offered.
You can also make a cash donation at the Department of Public Safety, 525 Washington Ave.; or at City Hall, 519 Washington Ave.