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Fergus Falls cuts police K9 program in budget cut move

FERGUS FALLS - Fergus Falls is planning out this year's budget and like most Minnesota cities and towns they're walking on pins and needles. Mayor Hal Leland says they're doing everything they can to keep from cutting personnel. The town has seen $600,000 dollars cut from local aid in the last year and a half.

Mayor Leland says though they haven't cut positions, they have not filled some open positions from things like retirements.

"We are hoping that there will not be further cuts to local government aid so that we can keep a zero increase for that budget year."

Fergus Falls was able to keep taxes as is for 2010, but nothing in Fergus was safe from the budget cuts. The police force took a hit. It'll be cutting its K-9 program, breaking up a long-time partnership. WDAY 6 Reporter Todd Kurtz has the story.

Sgt. Terry Eldein and his partner ranger will soon be ending their run. A duo that's been working together since 2003.

"You send them to locate somebody or find somebody you have the ability to call them back which is the only tool in law enforcement that once you deploy it you can call it back."

Terry says he hopes the program will return. Dogs like Ranger are great for building searches, tracking and aggression and best of all stopping a criminal in his tracks. For terry, he'll miss those keen K-9 senses in the back seat.

"He'll start barking and I'll stop and I'll look and sure enough there's somebody in the yard that he saw that I had no idea that he was even there."

Ranger will soon be 9 and would be retiring soon. An additional bright side to getting old and not showing it, Ranger's scenery will not change much. Terry will purchase him from the city for $1.

"The officer being ready to be done as the handler and the dog being close to the end of its service time with the police department, it's probably a good time."

Sgt. Eldein says not working anymore will be tough on Ranger, but they'll keep doing training exercises at home, games like catching the bad guy.

"He sees me leave for work everyday in the uniform that's when it's going to be tough for him. Ya know if I have to come into court or training and he sees me leave in the squad you can tell he's upset and he's thinking, why am I not going with?"

A good dog that's earned his stripes and an owner that will miss his presence. Chief Brennan says it would cost around $12,000 to keep the program going and train a new dog and officer.