Austin K-9 demonstration to raise funds

Published 8:01 am Sunday, June 19, 2016

Residents will get a chance to see the Austin K-9 officers in action Monday night at a hot dog feed fundraiser.

The fundraiser will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday with K-9 demonstrations at 5 and 6 p.m. at the Veteran’s Pavilion of Bandshell Park. Grilled hot dogs, chips and soda will be available for a free will donation.

There will also be a silent auction for yoga lessons from Lindsey Kepner’s yoga studio and all proceeds from that will go toward the K-9 program.

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Freeborn County K-9 handler Adam McKane will be there with his dog to help out with the demonstrations.

Sponsoring the event is Willow Pet Hospital, Double K Specialty and Hormel Foods, which is providing 580 hot dogs to serve. Hy-Vee is helping out with other food items.

Lt. Matt Holten said City Administrator Craig Clark suggested the idea, as they have one every year in Worthington to help alleviate costs.

Holten said it was a good idea because the K-9 department is going through a transitional period and a lot of costs have used city resources.

“Anytime you go through a transitional period like that with the K-9 program, expenses are pretty heavy,” he said.

Former K-9 handler Eric Blust retired from the program and Officer Derek Ellis and K-9 Rudy took his place. Holten said he and Sonic are getting ready to retire from the program also, which could come as soon as September.

“I’ll keep doing the supervisory part of it, but I need to replace myself and that’s going to [require] another dog,” he said.

Police K-9s cost about $8,000 to $10,000, plus training costs and a bullet-proof dog vest too. The police department also has to provide housing for the dog at the handler’s home.

Now some of those costs will be relieved with funds raised at the fundraiser.

“It’s going to go into our K-9 Foundation right now,” Holten said. “Riverland [Community] College just helped us build like half of our agility equipment for [the] agility course. The other half still has to be built, [and] that’s going to be done next year and the money will go for that.”

The remaining money will be saved in the K-9 Foundation and could possibly go towards another dog or future expenses, he said.

Holten said he plans to have a fundraiser at least once a year.

“It may be something different every year and this is going to be kind of the first time we’ve done it,” Holten said. “So [we] just kind of want to see how it goes, but this is how we’re going to go with it this time.”

Holten said K-9 dogs have to have two certifications: narcotics and patrol. Narcotics is training the dog to sniff for drugs, but patrol involves a little bit more.

Dogs can search for evidence, track people, find guns, stolen property and suspects, and even find the keys to a squad car. The dogs are also trained to bite people when necessary.

Sonic is certified in both narcotics and patrol, but Rudy is only certified for narcotics. Ellis and Rudy are working toward that certification right now and recently placed third in a regional narcotics certification.

“My new partner, Derek, got third place in the regional narcotics certification as a rookie, which is really hard to do,” Holten said.

He added three weeks before that, Ellis and Rudy found a quarter pound of methamphetamine on a traffic stop and because of that, a search warrant was executed and law enforcement found the remaining three-quarters of a pound.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do and want people to see what they’re paying for,” Holten said. “Particularly a thing like this for the community, there’s a community investment in it. I want them to see what kind of K9 unit we have and we have a really good K9 unit.”

The fundraiser is also good training for the dogs, as the patrol certifications are usually at the end of June and the dogs have to learn to work in all kinds of chaotic situations and all kinds of people, he said.

“They need to be able to do it without being distracted and the only way that you can prepare for that is by doing things like this,” Holten said.

The dogs have done demonstrations at National Night Out, Neveln Elementary School’s Spring Fling, and at other events in Austin and Mower County.

“We do a demo for anybody that asks. … We never tell anybody no, unless they live outside the county,” Holten said.