Wanted: 6 police dogs for Reading
The city department is looking for donations. It wants to start training three German shepherds in about a month and another three before the end of the year.
By Jason A. Kahl
2/3/2008 10:44:00 PM
- Reading police are ready to reactivate the canine detail.
Now all they need are donations of six German shepherds.
Three dogs are needed within the next month to begin training at a refurbished kennel at Reading Regional Airport in Bern Township.
The other three would start training before the end of the year, officials said.
The department had been weighing two options: buying dogs already trained in Europe for police work, or getting young dogs and have them get training with the officers who will be their handlers.
The six dogs the city wants would cost almost $100,000, police officials said.
Police said it would cost about $15,000 per dog for animals trained for patrol work and narcotics, and $21,400 per dog for those trained for patrol work and explosives.
So getting donated dogs and training them from scratch would save almost $100,000, police said.
The department has always used donated dogs and trained them within the department.
Police said they could buy untrained dogs from a good bloodline for about $3,500 each, but they believe they can find suitable dogs through donations.
City Council disbanded the K-9 unit in 2005 for budgetary reasons.
Sgt. Guy S. Lehman, who is coordinating the restart of the 40-year-old canine detail after a three-year hiatus, said the department decided it would be more economical and more effective to train the dogs specifically for working in the city with their handlers.
“The city has trained their own dogs for 40 years, so this is nothing new,” Lehman said. “And we think it will be more economical and better for the officers to train with the dogs from the start.”
Lehman said a 6- to 7-week training regimen at the kennels followed by 12 weeks of on-the-job training will give the handlers a better knowledge of how their dogs work and allow them to correct any problems that may arise.
Lehman said the department already has had offers of two dogs in Kentucky and upstate New York, but officials prefer to find recruits closer to home.
Restoring the canine unit was one of the key elements in the crime-fighting plan Chief William M. Heim unveiled more than a year ago.
A volunteer group called the Friends of the Reading Police K-9 Unit gave the effort a big boost by collecting about $90,000 in grants and donations that will be used to buy equipment and repair the kennels, which are converted military barracks at the airport.
Some of the work still to be done at the kennels includes fixing a dilapidated obstacle course for the dogs, repairing the heating and electrical systems and maintaining the grounds, Lehman said.
Bulletproof vests for the dogs will be donated by the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, officials said.
The city will cover overtime for the officers who will handle the dogs and live with them in their homes, officials said.
The money raised by the volunteer group will pay for training equipment and new sport utility vehicles for the canines.
Keith A. Claytor, vice president of the group, said the Cacoosing Animal Hospital has pledged to care for the dogs for free.
“We’ve met our goals raising the money needed to get this started,” said Claytor, whose father, Russell, was the city’s first canine officer in 1962.
Claytor said the group is working with the Downtown Improvement District and the Berks Economic Partnership on a budget and funding for maintenance of the canine unit.
All of the dogs will be cross-trained — five in narcotics detection and one in bomb detection.
Lehman said police dogs bring many benefits, the biggest of which is enhanced safety for officers.
One police dog can do the work of 10 officers controlling a large crowd, he said, and one dog can search a building or find a suspect in about half the time it would take three officers.
And when faced with a dog, a criminal will usually surrender a lot faster and not fight or shoot at police, Lehman said.
How to donate
The Reading police department is looking for people to donate 6 dogs — three in the next month and three more about 6 months from now.
The dogs need to be German shepherds, male and not neutered. They should be between 11/2 and 21/2 years old.
Police will inspect and test the dogs to determine if they have the right temperament and ability for law enforcement work.
The dogs will receive six or seven weeks of intensive training at the department’s kennel at Reading Regional Airport followed by 12 weeks of on-the-job training.
The dogs will live with their handlers and receive ongoing training.
Anyone interested in donating a dog should call Sgt. Guy S. Lehman of the Reading police at 610-655-6092 or Friends of the Reading Police K-9 Unit at 610-780-3553. E-mails can be sent to K9HOWE@verizon.net
. Messages can also be left at the police kennel at 610-655-6048.
More information is available at http://www.readingpolicek9s.com.