Plans to add a new police dog to the force were put on hold Tuesday morning when the Board of Selectmen decided to table action until a question about paying for police overtime is answered.
Interim Police Chief Leon Krolikowski requested approval of $12,000 for the new dog and related expenditures to come from the department's K-9 fund, which is comprised entirely of private donations.
"The founder of Ventosa Kennel is a world-renowned expert on tracking," said Krolikowski, speaking of the ability of a dog to track the scent of a human. "We believe it will be exceptional training and take our program to another level."
Tracy Bowling, the late founder of Ventosa Kennel in Scotland Neck, N.C., authored "Police K9 Tracking: A Guide for Training & Deploying the Police Tracking Dog."
The dog's handler, Officer Mike McFadden, would travel to North Carolina to train with the dog for six to eight weeks -- which gave First Selectman Robert Mallozzi pause, asking who would pay for overtime in the event that officers would be called in to cover for McFadden.
"This, to me, seems extreme. We've had two training sessions with dogs locally where we've had access to the officer. To send someone to North Carolina for four to six weeks seems extreme. It's a different way of going about it," he said.
Training in North Carolina will be much superior to that used previously in Connecticut, according to the Police Department. Most police dogs come from central and eastern Europe, where the German shepherd line is indigenous. Unlike most other kennels, which import dogs trained in Europe, Ventosa imports the dogs as pups and trains them until the time of sale for the exclusive use of police departments. That approach allows for the kennel to have a better idea of each dog's strengths and weaknesses, which it can match up to the needs of a police department.
Krolikowski suggested that any overtime required during McFadden's absence would be paid for by the department's K-9 fund, but Mallozzi was unsure if that was possible. He said he would confer with the town's finance director, Dawn Norton, to see if an officer's wages could be paid with a private fund.
Mallozzi said he expected the selectmen to take up the issue again within the next month.
In July 2012, the police dog Zira was forced to retire because of a degenerative spinal disease. Her replacement, Rocky, died from choking in a training accident in April, after only a few months with the force.
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