Community helps police dog program

(Original publication: , 20)

KENT While it may take a village to raise a child, Kent police are learning that it takes a town to get a police dog.

The Town Board this week approved a plan by Police Chief Donald L. Smith for a canine program after a resident donated $2,900 to buy a German shepherd, a veterinarian agreed to provide care, a pet-care store promised food and about 20 other local businesses pledged several thousand dollars.

"At this point, there shouldn't be any costs to the taxpayer," Smith said yesterday. "To have this kind of help and support from the public has been amazing."

Officer Thomas Carroll, a nine-year Kent police veteran, and his new partner, Justice, a 2-year-old shepherd from Slovakia, will begin a 17-week training course next week at the Yonkers Police Department's Canine Unit. Since Justice will become part of Carroll's household, his wife and children will have to attend some of the training so they can bond with the newest member of their family. Once the course is complete, Carroll and Justice will begin patrolling town.

Carroll, who spent three years with the Mount Vernon Police Department before coming to Kent, said he was thrilled at the prospect of working with his new partner, whose arrival was made possible by a donation from a town resident who wants to remain anonymous.

Guchi Dog Grooming agreed to provide food for Justice, while Mark Feldman of the Animal Hospital of Kent offered his services for the duration of Justice's career, which could last 10 years or more.

"We'll give him regular checkups, routine regular vaccinations, heartworm testing, exams for parasites, and hopefully, that's all he'll need," Feldman said.

There are more than 10,000 police dogs in law enforcement throughout the United States, said Skip Brewster of the United States Police K-9 Association. They search buildings; track criminals and lost people; search for evidence, hidden explosives, narcotics and other chemicals; find corpses; and catch criminals with minimal force.

"They're an excellent tool for the department, as far as searching buildings," Brewster said. "You just make an announcement at a burglary that you're sending the dog in. It's safer for officers, and studies have shown that it saves time and money."

The police dog also provides a great public relations tool, especially with children.

"We do dozens of public demonstrations for children from kindergarten right up through high school, and we always get calls from schools asking us to bring the dogs in," said Yonkers Police Officer Gary Pietropaolo, who has worked with police dogs since 1986. "Some kids see the cops in a negative way. The police dog is an excellent tool to change that perception."

Pietropaolo said the dog should be an invaluable asset in Kent, which has miles of rolling, wooded hills where people can get lost. Local departments with police dogs include the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, New Rochelle, Harrison and Westchester County police, who have bomb-sniffing dogs.

The Town Board approved the canine unit by a 3-2 vote Monday. Councilman Joseph D'Ambrosio and Councilwomen Kathy Doherty and Christine Woolley voted for the dog.

Supervisor Annmarie Baisley and Councilman Lou Tartaro voted against it.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005