North Fayette approves purchase of police K-9

First police dog to start in May

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North Fayette police officer Todd Heufelder is a dog person.

That's one reason he volunteered to become the handler of the township's first police dog, expected to start service in May.

Cpl. Heufelder of North Fayette said the dog will detect drugs, track scents, deter crime, interact with the public at school and community events, and enhance the image of the police department.

"Everybody loves a dog more than they love us, so that definitely helps us," he said.

Supervisors voted Oct. 22 to enter into an agreement with Shallow Creek Kennels Inc. of Sharpsville, Mercer County, to pay $13,000 to purchase a police service dog, or K-9, and send Cpl. Heufelder to a six-week training course.

A $15,000 donation from Industrial Scientific Corp. of North Fayette covers the entire cost of the dog and training, police Chief Mark O'Donnell said.

Money remaining from that donation -- plus more than $5,000 that has been raised from other businesses and residents -- will be used for associated K-9 equipment and care, he said.

"We've reached out to the community for assistance with this, and we're just thrilled with the response," Chief O'Donnell said.

In preparation for the arrival of the police dog, the ambulance service covering North Fayette plans to offer an animal CPR class to its 100 paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

Kevin Early, operations chief of McKees Rocks-based NorthWest EMS, said employees will learn how to deal with a sick or injured dog and deliver it to a 24-hour emergency veterinary service.

"We're always concerned with the safety and well-being of the police officers, but the police [force] also includes the dog," Mr. Early said.

NorthWest EMS maintains an ambulance station beside the township municipal and police complex on North Branch Road.

North Fayette police have relied heavily on dogs from outside departments, especially Findlay and Robinson, and sometimes Scott and Heidelberg, Cpl. Heufelder said.

Robinson acquired a K-9 earlier this year.

"[With] the increasing drug activity and transient traffic that's coming into the township, I just felt there was a need for us to go out and get one on our own," Cpl. Heufelder said.

The dog will live with and work with Cpl. Heufelder.

Cpl. Heufelder will meet his German shepherd dog when he begins training in March at a facility about 75 miles north of Pittsburgh.

"They try to match up the handler and the dog -- their personalities and how well they work together," he said.

He said the dogs, imported from Europe, usually are 12 to 18 months old.

Shallow Creek Kennels is a 40-acre, privately owned and operated importing and training facility that aims to provide police dogs "with balanced drives, great nerves and excellent temperaments from proven working lines," according to the kennel website.

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:

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