K9 employed by York County could help other police departments

The York County Sheriff’s Office may soon employ a K9. Here in this photo from 2019, Gorham’s police dog, Sitka, was shown at an event. Portland Press Herald Photo

ALFRED — A dual-purpose K9 could soon be in use in York County, giving sheriff’s deputies and police officers in the county’s three largest communities another tool to help in a crisis or detect illegal drugs.

York County commissioners recently authorized the sheriff’s office to search for a dog and check with people in the department for a deputy to act as animal handler ahead of an upcoming training program. Most costs – including pet purchase, training, police cruiser modifications to accommodate the dog, K9 body armor, outdoor kennel and kennel at handler’s home, a three-year food stipend, a three-year veterinary stipend, and other costs, come from a grant of more than $32,000 from the Stanton Foundation. The foundation was started by the late broadcaster Frank Stanton, who donates to a wide variety of animal welfare causes throughout New England, nuclear safety efforts and First Amendment protections.

York County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeremy Forbes, who served as a K9 handler for 23 years with the Maine State Police, said a dual-purpose dog can be an asset to a department.

“Mental health calls are skyrocketing,” he said, with people walking through the woods intent on harming themselves. “Having a dog is a huge plus.”

He pointed out that the three largest communities in York County – Biddeford, Saco and Sanford – do not have police dogs employed by their services and could benefit from another K9 in the county to help them.

The Sheriff’s Office had a police dog several years ago, but currently relies on the availability of Maine State Police K9s and their handlers if a dog is needed. Wells Police have a dog, as do Kennebunk, North Berwick and York Police Departments in the southernmost region of York County.

He noted that the dog could also be useful at York County Jail and provide positive public relations at events such as the Acton Fair and the Ossipee Valley Fair.

“This will benefit all of York County,” Forbes said.

The sheriff’s office’s only financial outlay would be seven hours a week in additional pay the manager would receive, under the union contract.

County Executive Greg Zinser noted there would be costs, which he described as minimal, to the county after the first three years.

The vote to acquire a K-9 was unanimous.

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