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ECSO needs help for its K-9 unit
Injuries, retirement have depleted the force
aj and ryan williams
Effingham County Sheriffs Office K-9 A.J., with his handler Deputy Ryan Williams, retired last year and K-9 Duke has torn both ACLs. - photo by File photo

The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit has helped the community in a number of ways. Now, the ECSO is hoping the public will return the gesture.

The unit does not currently have a dog in service after one was retired in December because of his age and another suffered an injury that is preventing him from working.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for monetary contributions from community members and businesses in order to buy two new dogs for the K-9 unit.

“It is not often that I reach out to the community for help in asking for donations,” said Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. “However, this is one instance that I’m asking.”

The dogs trained in narcotics detection, suspect apprehension and officer protection cost $12,000-$14,000 apiece, according to Cpl. Jamie Thompson, the primary supervisor for the ECSO’s K-9 unit. To acquire two dogs, along with necessary equipment, the ECSO hopes to receive $30,000-$35,000 in contributions.

The K-9 unit is not a budgeted item, Thompson said, so it relies on community donations. The ECSO is not asking for county funding for new dogs since the current fiscal year budget already has been adopted.

“As soon as we can get enough, we’ll move forward,” Thompson said. “This was an unforeseen thing after they went through the budget process, but the community has always been there to support us.”

Donations are tax-deductible and can be given in any amount. Checks made out to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit can be dropped off or mailed to the ECSO.

“With the current economic climate, payment to purchase two new fully-trained K-9s is not feasible from budget funds,” McDuffie said. “The benefits of a K-9 unit to our community vary from searching for missing persons, public relations, educating our children, arrest, searching for drugs and officer safety and protection.”

The equipment needed includes tactical gear for the dog’s handler and basic items for the dogs, such as leashes and treats given as rewards. The largest expense, Thompson said, is car cages for the dogs and the modifications they require to be made to patrol cars.

Thompson’s current patrol car has a dog cage. However, his vehicle soon will be out of service because of the miles on it, so a cage will have to be installed in his next car.

The K-9 unit retired its dog A.J. at age 12 in December. Prior to joining the ECSO in January 2010, A.J. was a U.S. Army bomb-detection dog for several years, including two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

The dog Duke, now 8, came on board about six months after A.J. Duke, assigned to an Army Ranger battaltion, also served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Thompson.

Duke’s days on the job appear numbered, though, after the anterior cruciate ligament in each of his hind legs had to be surgically repaired. He tore his ACL in one hind leg about two years ago and, in part because of the additional strain he put on the other hind leg, he tore that ACL in February, Thompson said.

“He’s been in and out of surgery,” he said. “Due to his age and needing surgery on his legs, we’re looking to retire him as well.”

For more information about donating to the K-9 unit, call the ECSO at 754-3449.