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Community raising money to help Norwalk police buy new drug dog

Cary Ashby • Updated Jul 29, 2016 at 11:35 PM

The Norwalk community is stepping up to raise money for a new police department drug dog.

The American Legion donated nearly $5,600 about a week ago. The cost of a police dog ranges from $12,000 to $15,000, which includes the cost of the animal and training.

“A police canine is expensive. We didn’t plan on buying another one for at least two to three years,” Chief Dave Light said.

But Viper’s illness, and his May 6 passing, changed the situation.

“Viper was the second canine we’ve had in recent years. We had planned on using him for about another three years,” Light said.

The 7-year-old German shepherd was taken to Mapleview Animal Hospital to address some medical issues. Light said it was determined Viper had “a mass on his intestines.”

“It turns out they couldn’t save him. He went downhill pretty quickly,” the chief added.

To complicate matters, the department also had to change which cruiser was used for the canine unit. Light said the initial cruiser now is “a junker” and both cars have a lot of miles on them.

“Car 10 had 80,000-some miles on it. Car eight had 100,000 miles on it,” the chief added. 

Light said the department doesn’t have any extra money in the budget from drug investigations for a new dog — only funds for food and veterinarian bills. He said he didn’t feel like he could approach city council with a request for a dog and, eventually, a new cruiser. 

Having heard about Viper’s death, Larry Wiesenberger of the American Legion came to the station earlier this month to discuss the situation. Light, in an email to city officials, said the civic group originally wanted to donate about $3,000 toward another dog and considered “doing this over a six-month period of time.”

“Larry called back this morning (July 19). They now want to fund this entire dog,” the chief added in the email. 

“The American Legion wanted to help us get another drug dog,” Light to the Reflector. “I was really grateful.”

Recently, other businesses and organizations have made plans to donate money for a new dog. One of those efforts is the Paws for a Cause fundraiser 5K run-walk by Gaymont Nursing Center on Sept. 17.

“They want to donate a portion of the proceeds to the canine unit,” Light said. “Charlie’s Bar is putting on a fundraiser.”

Charlie’s Bar, on Facebook, is advertising a drug-awareness family event from 3 through 11 p.m. Aug. 27. It will feature “live music all day,” food, a bounce house, dunk tank, 50-50 raffle and face painting. The Facebook post indicates the fundraiser “continues into … our cruise against heroin.”  

Also Melissa James, executive director of the Huron County Chamber of Commerce, has approached police and expressed an inquiry about assisting.

“So that’s huge,” Light said. 

Police have gathered quotes on the price of buying and training a dog.

Lynnwoods Kennels Inc. in Fremont has a price of $12,500 to cover the dog, equipment and six weeks of training. In February 2015, M & M Canine Boarding Kennel in Sanduskly had a quote of $9,200. Police plan to get a price from North Coast K-9, which is outside of Monroeville.

Once the department has enough money, Light said he plans to have Officer Nick Weber be the next canine handler. The previous handlers were Dave Ditz, Dave Pigman, Timothy Skinner and Jared Ferris. 

Canine handlers are paid a half-hour each day for grooming and caring for the dog. The department also allots one day each week for on-duty training. 

Light said the businesses and groups stepping up means residents are aware there is a drug problem and “they are taking back the community.”

“The dog is a vital component. Losing that dog has really hamstrung us,” he added. “It’s going to take the whole community.”

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