Two trained search dogs have been let go from the Dillon Police Department after new chief Steve Neumeyer cut the agency's canine program due to budgetary concerns.
The dogs cost the department thousands of dollars each year and the hours of upkeep training they were required to attend with their police officer handlers was depleting the department's already limited staff, Neumeyer said.
"We're in budgetary restraints and there had to be an adjustment," Neumeyer said. "I had to make a hard decision going into 2013."
The two dogs will stay in Summit County and will live with their respective handlers as pets. The handlers are continuing their regular patrol duties with the Dillon Police Department.
Both of the dogs came to the department without an upfront cost. One landed a job with Dillon PD after his handler was hired on from another department and the other was donated.
The sheriff's office, which has two fully trained police dogs, will make its canine units available to Dillon at all times now that the Dillon program has been disbanded.
"We've always supported other agencies when they need canines," Summit County Sheriff John Minor said. "That resource is available to anyone at any time for the right reasons. It's really nothing new."
The sheriff's office dogs are trained in narcotics detection, article searches and protection work. The two dogs retiring from Dillon PD were only trained for drug searches.
The town of Dillon hasn't needed the dogs in recent months, Neumeyer said. Canine units have not been dispatched since Neumeyer took over as chief in early June and had been sent to only one call before that.
"I just don't have the demand in my town for it," Neumeyer said. "Is it cost effective, as a steward of taxpayer money, to have a program like that and not have any need for it?"
Dillon's canines required 10-20 hours of training per month and could represent a legal liability for the department without it, according to Neumeyer.
"There's so much exposure to the police department if those standards of training are not met at a high level," Neumeyer said. "If a dog is out on patrol and hasn't been trained for two or three weeks and makes a false reading or maybe injures a citizen, there's a huge exposure to the police department."
The sheriff's office is currently facing litigation relating to one of its dogs.
Minor declined to comment on the issue.
Dillon was the only local law-enforcement agency, other than the sheriff's office, that had canine units.
Neumeyer said the canine program has been disbanded, but the policies are still in place to support it. He said he does have the option to resurrect the program if the need arises.