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Out with one K-9 unit, in with another

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Corinth Police discontinues program as Denton County Sheriff’s Office hopes to reboot

As one Denton county agency discontinues its K-9 unit, another is hoping to reboot its program.

The Corinth Police Department shelved its K-9 program two months ago, Capt. Greg Wilkerson said. 

The department’s chocolate lab, Bear, had grown old and began developing arthritis, he said.

“His handler paid us a small amount of money to keep him and he [the dog] is retired now,” Wilkerson said. ,

He said a meeting with Chief Debra Walthall was held to discuss the agency’s future plans.

“It just wasn’t cost-effective replacing him at the time,” he said. 

During the meeting, officials learned that the department was more in need of another person on its criminal investigations team. 

“We only had two [in the criminal investigations unit], and the case load was overwhelming,” he said. 

Wilkerson said having an additional officer working cases outweighed the benefits of purchasing another dog at this time.

The department only spent an additional $7,000 a year in overtime costs for the handler to care for Bear, he said.

“It’s not like we came into a lot of money; we always go over our allotted overtime budget anyway,” he said.

The 2013-14 budget includes a $101,346 budget increase to the police department, and if approved, the increase would take effect Oct. 7, according to city officials.

Wilkerson said he is unsure of the future of the K-9 program.

“When it’s the right time, we will know,” he said. “It’s just not now.”

As one door closes, another opens.

The Denton County Sheriff’s Office lost its K-9 deputy, Chico, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, last December when high winds blew open the gate to his handler's yard. Sgt. Larry Kish said Chico was shot near Mallard Point, an unincorporated part of Collin County, when a property owner believed him to be a threat to his chickens.

During a recent interview, Sheriff William Travis said it’s time for the office to move forward and bring back its K-9 unit.

Travis said he is hoping to be awarded roughly $18,000 from an area High Intensity Drug Trafficking Program (HIDTA) to purchase not one but two new dogs for the county.

“I want to have one dog for highway patrol and one for sniff-and-attack use in narcotics,” he said. 

Currently, Travis said, he is working to fill the vacancies of the K-9 patrol deputy and a corporal position. 

“I am hoping to have the dogs and the two new hires as soon as possible because I want both dogs to train together,” Travis said.

Travis said the county is missing a lot of drugs that he believes are being transported up and down area highways, and he hopes to curb some of the trafficking with the addition of the two new dogs.

“Further on down the road, I would like to add a third dog,” he said. 

The third dog would only need accreditation, since a jailer owns a Belgian Malinois that he is willing to train, Travis said.

If the grant money isn’t available, Travis said he will still get the agency two dogs using drug forfeiture funds.

“Classes [for K-9 accreditation] start Dec. 3, and I want to get things rolling by then,” he said.

Officials said collaboration with other agencies is a key to controlling drug trafficking that’s been going on for years. 

“In the future I am hoping to partner with Denton and University of North Texas Police Department’s K-9 units,” Travis said. “They have great dogs and are very easy to work with.”

Staff Writer John D. Harden contributed to this report.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.