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Sylva police department launches fundraising for police dog

The town of Sylva is in hot pursuit of what Police Chief Davis Woodard called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to add a canine component to the ranks of municipal law enforcement.

His name is Don, he’s a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois and he’s a bargain. 

“This opportunity that would normally cost between $14,700 and $16,700 we can do for $7,725,” Town Manager Paige Dowling told the town board this month. 

Given the price cut, it’s no surprise that Sylva is jumping at the chance, with Woodard stressing that Don’s not being offered so cheaply because he’s defective in any way. To the contrary, Don’s a top-rate dog who’s ready to work, Woodard said. 

On his off time, Waynesville Police Department Sergeant Brandon Gilmore trains dogs for Florida-based Professional Service Dogs Inc., and he was about ready to send a trained-up Don back to Florida when the Bryson City Police Department approached the company about buying the dog, Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said. But Bryson City backed out, and Sylva then expressed interest. The company offered the town a deal. 

“PSD K-9 has agreed to provide a K-9/handler school at no cost to Sylva PD — normally $3,500 — to assist them in getting their K-9 program started,” Hollingsed explained. 

Sylva already has an officer in place with some K-9 experience, and collaboration with other local agencies would mean that continued training would not cost Sylva anything, Woodard said. The only ongoing cost would be $725 for expenses such as vet visits, food and supplies. 

Dowling pointed out that the K-9 would also help make Sylva’s existing personnel go farther, because in some situations K-9s make things proceed much more efficiently, such as in missing persons searches. 

“You can reap great benefits from a dog,” Woodard said. “That’s one reason Waynesville has five of them.”

However, even the reduced price will require some creative financing. The police department is looking for community donations to cover the cost — contributions can be dropped off at town hall or sent in the mail. The goal is to have the money raised and the dog purchased within a week to avoid having Gilmore hold the dog for a more extended period of time. 

Bringing the dog to Sylva will be an investment that reaches years in the future, Woodard said, with the dog likely to remain in active service for about a decade. On average, dogs work for eight to 10 years, though he said he knows of two that made it to 14 years. 

“Single-purpose dogs work longer due to not having to climb or jump around, which as of now the dog we are hoping to get is just trained in drug detection but will be trained at a later date in article searches and tracking,” Woodard said. 

Woodard is hopeful that Don will soon be joining the department’s ranks, putting his nose to work in sniffing out drugs, missing people and pieces of evidence. 

“It’s probably a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get something we’ve needed for quite some time,” he said. 

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