New police dog for Saugerties

As donations continue to trickle in, police Sgt. Mark Craft said he would be traveling to Pennsylvania next month to pick up the police department’s newest K-9 officer.

This will be the first of three dogs that Craft has been partnered with that he has had the chance to pick out on his own. The first two both died; the first of cancer and the second, Vega-Ella, died from a tumor.

It will cost $6,500 to purchase and train a new dog, Craft said, and “we’re (the police department) about halfway towards collecting that money.” So far the Police Benevolent Association, Sue’s Restaurant, and a host of individual donors have contributed money toward the purchase of a new dog.

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Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the Kiwanis Club has said they would be making a donation to the fund drive as a way of saying “thank you” to the police department for providing traffic control, and for keeping the patrons of the annual Garlic Festival safe.

Gail Hampel, the mother of one of the department’s officers and the owner of the KOA campground off Blue Mountain Road, is selling t-shirts to help raise money as well, and she can be contacted either at the campground or by calling 246-4089.

Craft is also donating back any comp time he accrues to the department, and that money will also go into the purchase and training of a new dog.

Craft said the new dog will either be a German shepherd, Dutch shepherd, or Belgian shepherd, and come from Shallow Creek breeders in Pennsylvania.

“I talked to a number of police departments including ones from Columbia County and they said the dogs that come from Shallow Creek are great for police work,” Craft said.

He will make his choice from the various dogs at Shallow Creek based upon a number of criteria, Craft explained.

“I want a dog that socializes well so it will be good around people, but a dog that’s intelligent and will listen to commands,” Craft said. The dog can be either male or female, he said.

Craft will begin the initial training with the dog, teaching it to listen and obey his commands, and then the two will go to K-9 training school to get the two working closely together and to teach the dog advanced skills. School should begin in late winter or early spring and the new K-9 officer should be ready to join the department later next year, Craft said.

Saugerties police use their K-9 for a number of purposes including drug interdiction, tracking and finding lost individuals, and crowd safety at large events.

Vega-Ella also proved invaluable to the Ulster County narcotics team (URGENT), helping to make a number of drug busts, Craft said.

Craft also takes the dog into the high school and middle school for drug searches, but will also take it into the elementary school to let the younger kids get to know Saugerties Police Department’s newest officer.

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