Yarmouth may revive police dog program

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YARMOUTH — The town may get a new police dog if enough money is donated for a canine program.

Following the February death of retired police dog Sultan, several organizations and individuals have offered money to buy and train a new dog. The Town Council on May 21 decided Yarmouth can accept the funds.

“After Sultan was laid to rest, there was a tremendous outpouring across the country of people who wanted to help Yarmouth purchase, train, and maintain a new police dog,” Town Manager Nat Tupper said.

Tupper said a “generous donation” of $5,000 has been given by the Yarmouth AMVETS. Before councilors unanimously approved accepting the funds, the Police Department wasn’t allowed to take donations for the program.

When Police Chief Michael Morrill first presented the idea to councilors at a May 7 workshop meeting, he said there were many people interested in making donations. He said after the death of Sultan, a 13-year-old German shepherd who had retired a few years prior to being put down, people from as far away as Germany had contacted the department.

After Sultan retired in 2012, he went to live with a South Portland police officer and Yarmouth never purchased a new dog.

Morrill said the department would need around $15,000 to re-establish the canine program. The money would go toward the purchase of a dog, training the dog and the officer who would handle it, and converting a police vehicle into one suitable for carrying a canine.

Morrill said he wants to have enough funds to start the program without burdening taxpayers.

“I’ll guarantee you the budget will not explode,” he said. “If it got to the point, or if we envisioned it would cost the taxpayers a lot of additional money, I would just withdraw the proposal.”

When enough money is raised, Morrill will come back to councilors, who will vote on whether to officially re-establish the canine program. If enough money isn’t raised in a “reasonable amount of time,” it will all be returned to the donors, Morrill said.

Morrill said having a working police dog would still be a couple years away, because of the time it takes to train the dog and an officer. He said several officers are already interested in being a handler.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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Officers from around the state paid respects to retired police dog Sultan when he was put down Feb. 13 in Yarmouth.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.