Canine force may be cut to single animal Balto. Co. fire chief says one rescue dog is enough

March 13, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

After the death of one search and rescue dog and the retirement of another, Baltimore County Fire Chief Paul H. Reincke has tentatively decided to scale back the county's dog rescue unit from three animals to one.

Meanwhile, the officer who handled Barney -- the dog whose fatal bout with cancer drew a flood of donations, of which pTC $38,000 remains -- has spent his own money for a puppy he is training privately for search and rescue work.

"This work is too important," said Fire Lt. Daniel Kluge, who bought Barney's half-brother's puppy, Beauregard, and had him shipped to his Cecil County home from Oregon at a cost of $1,000. "I'll go independent."

The leftover donations can be used only to buy, train or care for rescue dogs.

The decision to scale back the number of search dogs on the force comes despite a department spokesman's acknowledgment that standard search practice is to use at least two dogs.

"One dog is ample to meet our needs," said Reincke, who returned as chief in June after a six-year retirement. A department spokesman, however, said a final decision hasn't been made.

Barney, a golden retriever, helped find 72 people during his seven years in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey. Since Barney's death, a second search dog, Mattie, a 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, was retired when his handler was demoted from lieutenant to fire specialist, a move unrelated to the dog program, fire officials say.

That left the department with only one of the specially trained animals -- Riggs, a 2-year-old golden retriever.

Kluge said that he plans to spend the next year training Beauregard, adding that the dog will need another 18 months of "seasoning" before reaching his prime.

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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