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Area K-9 Programs need fundraising to operate

Monday, February 5, 2018
Tajma Hall | WEAU

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - As law enforcement agencies continue working to keep communities safe, many local departments are implementing K-9 programs. Fundraising efforts remain underway to make these programs possible.

Officer Helstern of the Altoona Police Department says drugs like meth are negatively impacting local communities and needs to be off the streets. "The work we do drives our needs so we've obviously had a huge spike in drug related cases, specifically methenamine is still on the rise in the Chippewa valley area," said Officer Helstern.

The Altoona Police Department is in just a month away from beginning training with its new K-9. The department says the dog can help officers get drugs off the streets and protect communities. "Meth is one of those things, it's hard for us to find. It's hard for us to locate without searches and things of that nature. A dog can help us find those. He can cut down our search time and help us find drugs that we might not otherwise find," said Helstern.

Altoona isn't the only local agency focused on a K-9 program. Chippewa falls police are working to find staff to begin theirs. 
The Eau Claire police department has benefited from its K-9 program since 1990 and currently has two dogs in service.

The Chippewa County Sheriff's Department has had an active K-9 program for several months now and the department says, it's been a big benefit. The department has a patrol and drug detection dog that specializes in apprehension and tracking. "There are several cases throughout the year that at times our officers would be in quite a bit of danger, entering residences or buildings or things like that, where we can now also utilize the K9 in those situations," said Lt. Mitch Gibson.
Chippewa County says they are looking to add a second K-9 to the force in the near future.

As local law enforcement agrees K-9 dogs are an important resource, they are an expense to departments and fundraising is often required to start and keep these programs running because there isn't always room in the standard department budget. For some agencies, finding funding is a longer process than others but officers say community support is what it's all about. "We've found that if we can have a community that supports having a K-9 through donations and through volunteer efforts then we have a community that wants a K-9," said Helstern.

The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department says its had four K-9 dogs over the years but currently do not have an active program due to budget restrictions. Sheriff Cramer says K-9 dogs require maintenance such as food and health care, which many departments don't have room for in their budgets. Cramer says this is why fundraising is so important. 

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