Willmar and Kandiyohi County reinstate canine law enforcement
WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County has been without a canine unit since Willmar Police Department's German shepherd, Cato, retired from service in December 2012.
WILLMAR - Kandiyohi County has been without a canine unit since Willmar Police Department’s German shepherd, Cato, retired from service in December 2012.
Now, thanks to donations from local businesses, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office and the Willmar Police Department will each have a canine officer by the start of the new year.
The Willmar City Council on Monday night approved a donation of $15,000 from Duininck Inc., of Prinsburg, and Fancy Coats, of rural Willmar.
The dogs will cost about $8,200 and are scheduled to arrive in January. They will be assigned to handlers and given additional training. The donated funds will provide a large portion of the costs to restart the canine program.
Cato helped get $42,245 worth of drugs off local streets throughout his 10 years of work as a canine officer. He participated in 132 drug seizures, said Jim Felt, Willmar police chief.
Felt said local law enforcement has felt the loss of not having a canine unit during the past two years.
“Our officers are trying to be very active in combating drug activity, but it’s more difficult to thoroughly search vehicles and buildings,” Felt said.
In addition to seizing drugs and fighting drug crime, canine officers can also assist law enforcement in a number of other ways.
Felt described a situation in 2011 when Cato helped save a man’s life.
A man with suicidal tendencies inflicted what could have been deathly injuries on himself and then wandered into a field. Cato was able to locate the man, who received the medical care he needed.
“That’s just one instance where we can specifically credit Cato with saving someone’s life,” Felt said.
Felt said canine officers can also help locate fugitives, missing people and missing property.
According to Police Department figures, Cato seized $168,552 worth of items during property seizures throughout his career.
“The dog more than paid for itself in just asset seizures alone,” Felt said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “Those assets that are seized are reutilized for drug enforcement activities.”
Felt said the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department will obtain the dogs from a Twin Cities-based company, Performance Kennels.
Councilwoman Audrey Nelsen on Monday night thanked the businesses for their donation during the council meeting.
“This is something that they’ve tried to donate for several years,” Nelsen said. “It’s great that it’s going forward so I thank them for their patience in being able to get this done.”
Jason Duininck, of Duininck Inc., said the businesses were glad to donate to the cause.
“We at Duininck are excited to be part of building a strong community in the Kandiyohi County area,” he told the Tribune on Tuesday.