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Sheriff's office wants canine program

 

Dep. Mike Earney stands by a sheriff's truck with a new logo after last week's chamber of commerce meeting. The sheriff's website says the first 50 donors to the K-9 program will have their names in vinyl letters on the transport trailer. - Scott Hunter photo

Dogs are "awesome tools" that can reduce the time it takes to search a building for a suspect or a lost child by 70 percent, chase down running suspects, Deputy Mike Earney told chamber of commerce members last week.

But they're not cheap and the Grant County Sheriff's Office wants four of them - without federal grants.

In other words, Sheriff Tom Jones is looking for the people of Grant County to step up.

Earney said the agency doesn't want to take federal money for the program because it comes with strong strings attached. He noted that Grand Coulee Officer Shawn Cook had to travel all over the country for the federal government when the city police force had a bomb dog.

"There are stipulations with federal grant monies, and we're not going after that because of our obligation to the Grant County community," Earney said.

Instead, the sheriff's office has been seeking, with some success, donations from everyday people, businesses and non-profits for the $122,000 it will cost to get the Patrol K-9 program going.

Nearly $22,000 have come in so far, but that's about $15,000 behind the preferred schedule, Earney said.

Dogs can help with a community-oriented policing effort.

"Animals have a tendency to open people up that may not be receptive to law enforcement in the first place," he said.

While it won't be known who will apply until the agency opens up applications for the dog handler positions, Earney said they hope to get them stationed in the homes of deputies throughout the county.

Deputies who take on the job would have to go to an academy for 400 hours and would be subject to call-out all over the county.

Earney said the program will be launched one dog at a time, "the right way and slowly," starting next fall or winter. The goal is to fully implement it by mid-2016.

Earney said a donor had already pledged for the dog vests and an anonymous donor has pledged annual upkeep funding of $10,000.

Donations for the effort can be made throughout the Columbia Basin Foundation with a website at columbiabasinfoundation.org.

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