K-9 grads

Officer Michael Craft and Sara (photo by Will Dendis)

Officer Michael Craft and Sara (photo by Will Dendis)

While many in Ulster County are familiar with K-9 officers visiting schools, community events and other venues to demonstrate their canine partner’s contribution to public safety, recently these valued officers of the law were the honored guests of the Ulster County Legislature.

“Some of the most overlooked and underappreciated officers that are employed in law enforcement are these canine officers and their handlers,” said Majority Leader Kenneth Ronk.

Having recently completed 14 weeks of training school at the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, these K-9s and their handlers are policing the streets in the towns of Ulster, Saugerties and as part of the Ulster County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit. Their skills in police patrol, tracking and article searches/scent detection have already been utilized in the county in crime prevention and investigation efforts.

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Head instructor and Ulster County Sheriff’s Deputy George Carlson knows firsthand that a properly trained K-9 officer and handler can do the job of five men at times and costs less to train. “We have had drug money seizures of over $200,000 with at least 65 percent of that returning to the county and the remaining up to 35 percent going to whatever Federal agency is doing the forfeiture,” he said.

Deputy Carlson noted that K-9 officers, who average eight to nine years of service before they retire, are purchased through donations and seized drug money, not taxpayer dollars. He said, “These dogs are young dogs, ready to go and very active.”

The Town of Saugerties PBA raised $10,000 in donations to bring K-9 Officer Sara to the department. That funding, along with the proceeds from the sales of t-shirts and a generous donation from the Kiwanis Club of Saugerties, allowed Officer Michael Craft to deliver Sara to the community, his third K-9. In the near future, Saugerties will add another to their K-9 unit with the recent award of a $50,000 Homeland Security grant for the purchase, training and equipment of a new K-9 Bomb Detecting Unit that will sustain, maintain and enhance terrorism-prevention efforts throughout Ulster County.

Although many of their dogs have been purchased with drug seizure money, this new addition was thanks to the Board of the Sheriff’s Foundation, said Ulster County Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum. The foundation is a nonprofit formed three years ago to solicit donations for county law enforcement initiatives like the K-9 unit. He also spoke of a recent incident in New Paltz, to which the canine officers assisted in the seizure of $84,000 in drug money, and K-9 Dozer and handler Deputy Robert Vedder, who is joining the Ulster County Sheriff’s five-member K-9 unit that began in 1999. In conclusion, Sheriff VanBlarcum said, “I want to say it is another two feet; but it is actually another four feet on the streets.”

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