WELLSVILLE - Council members voted to reinstate the police department's K-9 unit during special session Saturday afternoon. Following an executive session which included police Lt. Ed Wilson, councilman Tony Cataldo moved to authorize Mayor Susan Haugh to sign a contract for the purchase of a dog from Shallow Creek Kennels in Hermitage, Pa., for $13,000.
The cost includes a six-week handler course for the dog's human partner, plus supplies for the animal, including collars, leads, a harness, and other items.
The topic of a new police dog was raised during the last regular council meeting, with Cataldo raising concerns about the village making the significant investment in time and money to bring the last K-9 into the department, only to lose it when the dog's human partner moved on to another agency.
Wellsville Officer Joseph Saraniti will serve as handler and caretaker for the new K-9 officer.
Cataldo said the special meeting was needed for quick approval of the purchase since summer classes begin July 15. The estimate from Shallow Creek states that the first 12 confirmed participants will receive free lodgings for the six-week length of the training program in nearby West Middlesex, Pa. According to Cataldo, only three of those spots remained open.
Shallow Creek is the same kennel from which East Liverpool Police acquired Ivo, the city's new K-9 officer, who was sworn in Friday. "It's going to be great for the communities. We're going to have three dogs within a five-mile radius," Cataldo said, referring to Ivo, K-9 Officer Axel at the St. Clair Police Department and Wellsville's future police pooch.
As to funding, Cataldo admitted that had not been finalized yet, but that the money would likely come from the police funds combined with private donations that the village has received toward the purchase. A checklist has been prepared to bring the department's K-9 vehicle, which is specially modified for a dog, back to running order.
The matter of a new police dog has been in discussion since the loss of K-9 officer Ryot last year. The added drug troubles the village is contending with also played a significant factor, according to Cataldo. "With the recent rash of overdoses, we think this will help the community in the long run," he said.
Cataldo stated that the K-9 will be part of a larger anti-drug effort that will be launched in the village soon. "Council voiced their concerns in the executive session with the lieutenant and the mayor, and [Wellsville Police Chief Joe Scarabino], the lieutenant and the mayor are going to come up with a plan," he said. "We're going to try to get this village back on its feet."