The Dade City Police Department is still searching for a new K-9 team after a recent departure.
Chris Stone, a 14-year law enforcement officer, and his K-9 partner, Ryko, worked together for eight years before retiring as a team about three months ago.
Stone now works for the Pasco County Fire Department.
“We knew (Ryko’s retirement) was coming, but we didn’t know it was coming this fast,” Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom said.
“The dog was of the age that you really couldn’t have assigned it to another handler being nine years old, and it was starting to have some hip issues,” the police chief added.
“It’s a tough job—riding in a car for 12 hours a day, jumping out and running, so you tend to retire them around nine or 10 years; he was due to retire pretty soon anyway, whether Stone left or not,” Velboom continued.
A new K-9 costs about $10,000, including new supplies and equipment.
Since a police dog wasn’t included in this year’s budget, the department sought outside assistance.
The department already has received several thousand dollars in donations from a number of local organizations and businesses, including the Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club and the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union.
“The community has just been phenomenal,” Velboom said about the support for a new K-9. “I can’t say enough about how people were sending me checks anywhere from $25 to a $1,000. It’s really been a rallying point.”
As it searches for a new K-9 unit, the police department has been receiving K-9 assistance from both the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and the Zephyrhills Police Department.
Despite the logistical obstacles of not having its own K-9 unit, Velboom said the arrangement has been beneficial, for the time being.
“It’s working really excellent,” Velboom said. “Pasco is here whenever we need them, especially now since we’re on their same radio channel; they hear when we need a dog, and a dog just shows up.”
Velboom noted the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office also has agreed to help his department select a new German Shepherd from a police K-9 vendor once $10,000 is raised.
“They have a lot of experience in buying dogs, so we’re going to work with some of the experts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the police chief is looking to appoint a new handler from within his department.
“We’ve had three officers apply to be considered, and we’re working on the process to figure out which one is best suited for the job,” he said.
Ideally, Velboom would like to have a new K-9 unit in place “sometime in August,” so the dog and its handler can undergo a 16-week, state-mandated K-9 training course, which begins in September.
Once complete, Velboom said the K-9 unit will be sent to a narcotic detection school to receive dual-certification from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Throughout both patrol and narcotics work, the unit’s duties will include tracking wanted or missing persons, conducting building searches, and conducting drug searches in structures and vehicles.
Published June 29, 2016