Hancock County makes new K9 training offer as Mach nears retirement | News

Rob Hillesland Summit-Tribune

The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department has been soliciting donations for a new K9 dog since July 1, 2021. The department’s current dog, 9-year-old Mach, a Belgian Malinois, is nearing the end of a typical K9 career.

On Feb. 7, Hancock County supervisors unanimously approved an estimated $7,000 donation for a new dog and training by Andy Klein of Tree Town Kennels in Forest City, who is also the deputy of the Hancock County Sheriff. Sheriff Rob Gerdes said $27,000 has already been raised for the K9 project and the offer from Tree Town Kennels gives Hancock County the opportunity to screen a new dog and provide training in timely.

“It’s pretty important to have a dog that he selects and trains by hand,” Gerdes said.

With extremely supportive supervisors, Gerdes will now ask Klein to proceed with the selection of a new dog and the necessary training, which should begin in September. The new dog will receive eight weeks of training before an additional four weeks of training with the K9 handler.

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Gerdes noted that the Hancock County K9 fund will still be accepting donations due to the continued need for things like ongoing training, nutritional support, medical care and equipment costs associated with the dog. No donations to the K9 program will be used for salaries or other departmental budget items. The original fundraising goal for the current Hancock County K9 project was to raise at least $35,000. Gerdes thanked all donors for their generous support. New donations can be sent to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office K9 Donation Fund at 875 State Street, Garner, Iowa.

Gerdes noted that Klein is a master law enforcement dog trainer with more than two decades of K9 experience. He currently works with a number of counties in Iowa and Minnesota for their K9 needs. Gerdes said it’s a big benefit to get a dog that Klein selects and trains by hand. The new dog will likely be another Belgian Malinois/German Shepherd mix.

Gerdes noted that Mach developed a cyst on his neck which caused nerve problems. The dog struggles to hold his head “up and straight” on some days. The growth of his vestibulocochlear nerve is affecting his balance, tilting his head and making him nauseous, according to Gerdes. It is treated with medication, but shortens its lifespan.

“They’re precious when I think of all the times you’ve been able to use them,” supervisors Sis Greiman said of the K9s. “When you first got Mach he was brought in and he was such a fun dog.”

She said Mach might be able to help out in some way in area schools. Gerdes said it’s possible Mach could still help Deputy Klein for a while while meeting with schools and community groups for K9 demonstrations. The sheriff’s office intends to continue using Mach as long as it is safe to do so and it is hoped that Mach will live with the Klein family when he retires.

“I think the courthouse is ready to embrace it,” supervisor Gary Rayhons said.

Gerdes said K9s are used to locate missing persons and fugitive criminals, to protect their handler and other agents, for narcotics detection and for a number of public relations programs. Mach has removed several pounds of illicit drugs from the streets, helped locate missing persons and fugitive criminals, and proved to be a valuable asset to the department. He helped make the county a safer place for everyone.

Rob Hillesland is Community Editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534 or by email at [email protected]

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