By Brian Ojanpa
The Free Press
NEW ULM —
The New Ulm Police Department's canine unit could be going to the dogs due to budget constraints.
Faced with lopping $30,000 from its budget, the department is considering an end to the K9 program that's been in place about a decade.
That would mean Juneau, the unit's German shepherd, would be bureaucraticallly declared as city surplus property and given over to his police officer handler.
Chief Myron Wieland said the department is working with city administration in an attempt to retain the unit through some creative funding adjustments.
Wieland said Juneau replaced a dog that was retired by the department two years ago. That dog was aged. But at 4 1/2 years old, Juneau is in his prime.
"In dog years he's still a young 'un," Wieland said of the animal that is specially trained in drug detection and other policing uses.
Wieland said he's a strong believer in police K9 programs and has personally donated to the New Ulm unit's fundraising efforts.
The program is funded through the department's budget and donations from area businesses and individuals.
Ending the program would make it difficult to reinstitute it at some point due to the start-up costs for K9 units.
When the St. Peter Police Department's 10-year-old dog was retired two years ago, the city opted to end the program rather than pay out $7,000 to buy and train a replacement.
Wieland said ending New Ulm's K9 program would cover about one-third of the $30,000 in cuts the department faces.
In Minnesota K9 units are used by police and sheriff's departments, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the State Patrol. The dogs are trained to track lost people, recover evidence, apprehend criminals and protect officers.