A cancer diagnosis has forced the retirement of one of the Zephyrhills Police Department’s police dogs.
It was a somber moment inside the Zephyrhills City Hall chambers when Zephyrhills Police Chief Derek Brewer on Oct. 12 officially retired 4-year-old K9 Oscar, amid what he called “an aggressive form of cancer, which is quickly spreading.”
The more technical term of K9 Oscar’s cancer is hemangiosarcoma, whereby malignant tumors are derived from the cells lining blood vessels.
“Unfortunately, he’s starting to exhibit signs of rapid decline in his health, and at this time we think it’s best for him to retire,” said Brewer, who was noticeably choked up.
With the retirement, ownership and care of the dog has been transferred from the city to his handler, Officer Morgan Upchurch.
K9 Oscar— a yellow Labrador from England— joined the city police department in 2018.
Brewer detailed how the canine in two-plus years completed 163 narcotics searches (yielding 134 findings) and 86 arrests. In those findings, K9 Oscar recovered methamphetamines, opiates, heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and other prescription pills.
“His value to us is going to be well-missed,” Brewer said. “I just want to tell you how much Oscar has meant to all of us, and none more than Morgan (Upchurch), and it’s a shame that he’s only 4 years old, and already suffering these types of issues, and we’re going to miss him a lot.”
The law enforcement agency operates with three police canines, with a long-term goal of working with four. The police chief later told The Laker/Lutz the agency plans to find K9 Oscar’s replacement “as soon as possible,” but added there’s not yet a set timetable “because many factors go into purchasing a dog.”
A slew of law enforcement officials and K9 units attended the retirement proceedings as a show of support for the Zephyrhills Police K9 team. A video tribute of K9 Oscar also was played for the audience at the meeting.
“It’s heartbreaking that such a young dog has to go through this,” said Zephyrhills City Council President Charles Proctor. “My heart goes out to Officer Upchurch. I can’t imagine. Having to put down one of our beloved dogs is always incredibly hard, so my heart goes out to him and the entire police department for their loss.”
Published October 21, 2020