Herald Staff Writer

The Clinton Police Department’s K-9 unit will likely be another casualty of the city’s ongoing budgetary struggles.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the City Service Committee, Police Chief Brian Guy explained the department no longer has the resources to make good use of Neiko, a trained police dog employed by the force since 2007.

“He’s a very good dog,” Guy said. “The problem is the daily costs of maintaining the dog.”

Neiko is trained in takedown techniques and narcotic detection. In previous years, Neiko and his handler have been able to work longer, designated shifts, making the pair immediately available should the K-9 unit be needed.

However, budget cutbacks have forced the K-9 unit to be relegated to a rotating shift. This means that Neiko’s talents are underutilized as his handler attends to regular patrol duties.

“As you can imagine, that’s not a very effective use of the dog,” Guy said.

Clinton police dogs are typically reassigned to new handlers after a three-year rotation, but doing so would cost thousands in retraining. The car used by the K-9 unit, which is equipped with a specialized climate system, a full kennel and a remote-operated door, has nearly 200,000 miles on it and is currently non-functional. Should Clinton retain its K-9 program, Guy estimates that it will require an investment of nearly $13,000.

“(The dog) is a great tool to have when you have the financial resources,” he said. “We don’t.”

Guy has spoken with neighboring police departments and the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department about the possibility of adopting Neiko. But other departments are facing similar budget crunches, Guy said. Additionally, at 7 1/2 years old, Neiko has about three years of useful service life left, less after retraining.

Third ward councilwoman Bev Hermann said she wasn’t thrilled about losing the city’s only police dog.

“I really hate to lose the dog,” she said. “Sometimes the dog makes a real difference in a tight spot.”

Guy said that the department has some cash saved in a K-9 fund that can be used to purchase a new dog in the future. Grants provided by the Clinton County Development Association helped purchase Neiko, and Guy believes the city will have an opportunity to apply for similar funding when the K-9 unit is brought back.

Neiko’s decommission will be considered by the city council prior to his retirement. If passed, Neiko will likely retire with his current handler. Guy said that placing the dog in a situation that could possibly lead to euthanasia was “obviously not an option.”

Follow Ben Jacobson on Twitter @BJacobsonHerald.

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