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Johnstown police add to K-9 unit with support from community

By: Maria Miller

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- It's just about three months in and the community fund created to support the Johnstown K9 Unit has already raised 75 percent of its $60,000 goal. It's money that will be used to buy two new cruisers for the unit. But the department is also getting two new trained K-9 officers, thanks to help, again, from the community.
The dogs have a lot more training to go before they become certified and can be used in the field, but later this week they'll be hitting the streets with their new partners. On Monday, for the first time, they got to show off some of their moves and meet the rest of the department.
"Titan seems to be a great dog," said Johnstown Police Officer Brian Stevens. "He's young but very well-trained."
"He's already biting on suits, on the sleeves, obedience and he's listening to commands," said Officer Michael Plunkard of his new partner, Sarge.
"I'm very impressed with them. They're good -quality dogs and I think we can expect good things out of them," said Johnstown Police Chief Craig Foust. "We're anxious to get them trained and get them on the street."
To get here, the dogs traveled thousands of miles from their training homes in Belgium. They've only been in Johnstown with their new handlers for three days.
"He lives with me. He stays with me 24 hours a day," Stevens said.
"We're still getting to know each other," Plunkard said. "He's an 18-month-old Malinois. They're very high -drive dogs, they want to go and work all the time. It's a process of creating a bond with a dog."
While the pups learn how to obey, bite and attack, they're also part of new families. Titan is going home with an officer who's never had a K-9 partner before.
"I kept putting it off because I had a dog of my own, plus two young kids," Stevens said. "Now my kids are getting a bit older, so it seemed like the right time now."
Sarge is filling the spot left behind by K-9 Athos, who passed away four months ago.
"I wanted to get back into it," Plunkard said. "It's nice having another dog riding in the back of the car with me."
The dogs are important resources to the department but were not even an option until the community stepped in.  Specifically the EAD's group and Sally Sargent, who donated every penny to bring them to Johnstown.
"We're very grateful for the community's support," Foust said. "We actually couldn't even maintain this program without the support of the community and obviously we're very happy with that."
Sarge, in particular, will not be trained in narcotics like the city's other dogs. Instead, he'll be trained how to sniff out guns and ammo. It's a resource the region, as a whole, does not currently have.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times