Police dogs nearing end of careers

2014-02-20T00:50:00Z 2014-03-16T07:42:18Z Police dogs nearing end of careersShannon Smith - Daily Herald Daily Herald
February 20, 2014 12:50 am  • 

AMERICAN FORK -- Duco and Wolf are old dogs, but even slowed a bit by age and arthritis, they are still vital members of the American Fork police force.

The dedicated K9s, both about 63 in human years, will retire this fall from law enforcement.

The police department is nearing its goal to raise funds to replace the dogs, with an additional $6,000 needed.

The dogs have served Utah County for nine years using their highly trained olfactory senses to fight the spread of narcotics and other drugs in American Fork, Cedar Hills, and surrounding communities. They can identify six different types of drug-related odors.

Officer Ryan Archuleta, who trains Duco, a Belgian Malinois, said there are no typical days in police work but despite long hours riding in the patrol car, Duco always seems excited to go to work.

"As soon as he hears the garage open, and the car start, I go to his kennel and it's like game on. He's ready for work," Archuleta said.

Before becoming certified police dogs, Duco and Wolf, along with their handlers, went through months of intensive training. The officers said their dogs know at least 10 verbal commands including how to apprehend a violent suspect. Archuleta said Duco was able to apprehend someone suspected of breaking into vehicles and hold the suspect until officers could take him into custody.

Officer Russ Bishop has been training German shepherd Wolf for a little more than two years. He said the dogs' advanced age was beginning to show because they were becoming quickly fatigued, suffering some non-life threatening medical issues, and pain in their joints.

"These dogs have done so much good for us. They've earned the right to stay home and chew a tennis ball," Bishop said.

To purchase new service dogs and replace aging equipment, the police department estimated it needed to raise about $30,000.

For example, after nine years of weekly use, the department needs to buy a full bite suit, which Bishop estimated would cost about $1,200.

"K9 equipment is not cheap," Bishop said.

In addition to his patrol duties, Bishop headed up the K9 fundraising. He said the department reached out to residents through a flyer sent out with utility bills and asked local businesses.

"In the fall we set this goal and it was a daunting task," Bishop said. "Then the Bank of American Fork came forward and offered to match every dollar donated up to $11,000."

The bank has since benefited directly from the K9 unit when Duco was brought in to search for a suspect in the robbery of the Lehi branch in January.

Donations flowed in and on Wednesday, the Bank of American Fork presented a check to the K9 unit officers. "This wouldn't have happened without the [residents] of American Fork getting us to $11,000," said Archuleta. Donations may be made to the AFPD K9 Fund at any Bank of American Fork, or cash and checks will be accepted at the American Fork Police Department, 75 E. 80 North, American Fork.

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