Canine unit adds four dogs

Additions bring force back to strength, police say

March 07, 2007|By Nick Shields | Nick Shields,sun reporter

Gunny sat still for only a few seconds.

Then the 15-month-old German shepherd hopped up and trotted circles around his handler's leg, tangling the leash and eliciting smiles from a group of Baltimore County police officers and reporters gathered yesterday at the North Point precinct.

Gunny is one of four new dogs county police showed off yesterday at the precinct in Dundalk. The county purchased the dogs for the agency's canine unit, which was depleted by the deaths of four dogs that were stationed at the former canine facility at the Southwest Area Park in the Baltimore Highlands area.

The new dogs were purchased from K-9 Center LLC in Oxford, Pa., police said. The county paid $17,800 for the four male dogs.

In addition to Gunny, the county introduced 13-month-olds Zeus and Carbo, and 18-month-old Jet, all German shepherds.

The new dogs bring the agency's total to 29, said Lt. Dave Folderauer, who heads the canine unit. With the unit averaging around 10,000 calls a year, Folderauer said he is looking forward to being back to strength.

The unit was "doing the best we can with what we had," Folderauer said. "But having extra dogs on the street is going to be better for everybody."

After the deaths of two dogs in September 2005, police union representatives raised questions about conditions at Southwest Area Park. The former facility was closed after the dogs died and about 30 employees filed injury reports complaining of headaches, dizziness and respiratory problems. In all, four police dogs that had been stationed at the facility died of cancer, according to the police union.

In January 2006, the county released results of a $300,000 environmental test and declared the canine facility safe, reporting no environmental links to the deaths of the dogs.

But a report commissioned by the police union and conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determined in May 2006 that the site should remain closed until lingering questions about safety were answered. That month, the entire County Council signed a letter to County Executive James T. Smith Jr. and Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan urging more tests at the facility.

In August, county officials called the union-commissioned report flawed and reiterated that the site was "environmentally safe."

Three months later, however, the Police Department announced that the canine unit would operate from four precincts throughout the county -- Woodlawn, Franklin, White Marsh and North Point.

The agency also adopted stricter standards for purchasing dogs based in part on recommendations from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The new dogs will be trained at North Point, where they will receive 24 weeks of training. County officials are planning a permanent site for the canine training but have not settled on a location, police said.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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