Two police departments in the West region will receive $10,000 each to help start K-9 programs, thanks to a foundation set up by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
North Fayette police plan to use their grant for expenses related to adding a police service dog, or K-9, to the force in May.
Police in New Sewickley, Beaver County, will put the money toward buying a canine to start service in November.
Both township police departments plan to employ their dogs to detect drugs, track scents, deter crime and interact with the public at school and community events. Each dog will live and work with a police officer who is trained to be a handler.
The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation announced the grants last Thursday.
North Fayette’s $10,000 grant will pay for various expenses related to the dog, including possibly a dog safety vest, police Chief Mark O'Donnell said.
The success of the K-9 program relies on contributions like those from the foundation, he said.
The dog purchase, training and some other costs will be covered by more than $27,000 that North Fayette has raised from residents and businesses as well as a $5,000 grant from the National Association of Chiefs of Police Inc. in Titusville, Fla.
"Our citizens and our businesses have really stepped up, and we're very pleased they're helping us get this [K-9] program going," Chief O'Donnell said.
Under a $13,000 contract, North Fayette will buy a canine and send Cpl. Todd Heufelder to a six-week training course, starting in March, at Shallow Creek Kennels Inc. of Sharpsville, Mercer County, a privately owned and operated dog importing and training facility.
New Sewickley police Chief Ronald Leindecker said his township's grant will fund the majority of the cost of purchasing a dog and sending an officer to a handler training course.
“It really alleviates a lot of hard work we’d have to do to try to come up with the funds otherwise,” he said of the grant.
New Sewickley needs about $60,000 total to launch a K-9 program and maintain it for about two years, Chief Leindecker said.
In addition to the $10,000 grant, the police so far have collected $25,000 through community donations and fundraising events, such as spaghetti dinners, clay shoots and lottery raffles, he said.
Police dog expenses include equipment such as a safety vest, a kennel for the handler’s home and a specially equipped K-9 patrol vehicle as well as ongoing costs such as food and veterinary bills, Chief Leindecker said.
Officer Margaret Zaliponi, a 15-year veteran of the New Sewickley force, will attend training in October, possibly also at Shallow Creek, Chief Leindecker said.
The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation at The Giving Back Fund announced it has awarded grants totaling $77,000 to nine Pittsburgh-area applicants to start new K-9 units or to help maintain existing programs.
Other recipients were police departments in Forest Hills; Washington, Pa.; Edinboro and Martins Ferry; Eureka Fire Rescue EMS; Jefferson County Drug Task Force; and UPMC Presbyterian.
Also last week, the foundation said it will replace Pittsburgh police dog Rocco, a German shepherd who died in late January after being stabbed while on the job.
Since 2007, the foundation has made 135 canine grants, totaling more than $1.2 million, to 129 police and fire departments and five community youth organizations.
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: email@example.com.