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Cop, drug dog go to county

Staff writer

A Marion drug dog that cost $7,600 in 2019, $2,500 for a kennel in a police car, $2,357.67 for emergency surgery after she ate an extension cord in 2021, and about $7,000 a year to house, feed, and recertify, is now in the possession of the sheriff’s office because officer Aaron Slater, the dog’s handler, changed jobs.

For now, the dog remains the property of the city of Marion. The sheriff’s office is expected to purchase the dog, named Blue, but a price has not been negotiated.

Slater’s last day with Marion police was Saturday. He worked his first shift with the sheriff’s office Sunday.

The sheriff’s office already has a drug dog: Karma, handled by deputy Josh Meliza.

Yoko, a previous drug dog handled by deputy Matt Regier, was retired four months ago for medical reasons, Starkey said.

The sheriff’s office won’t have to buy a kennel for Blue. Regier was assigned a different vehicle, and Slater received Regier’s old vehicle, Starkey said.

Blue is trained to sniff for methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy as well as in tracking and evidence recovery.

The dog also was used for public relations by the police.

In August, the police department spent more than $1,100 on poker chips and challenge coins featuring Blue. The chips were to be handed out at community events such as Old Settlers Day.

Marion city council members Monday discussed the future of the city’s drug dog program.

Police Chief Clinton Jeffrey said none of the department’s current officers were interested in being a drug dog handler.

He said Blue’s kennel still is on Slater’s property.

Jeffrey said the department has about $10,000 remaining in the department’s drug dog fund. The money will remain earmarked for a drug dog program, he said.

Sheriff Jeff Soyez told council members that the city would still have access to Blue, as well as Karma, if the dog is sold to the county.

“We are not taking away any service from you,” Soyez said.

Councilman Jerry Kline questioned whether the city could get a signed waiver of liability if Blue bit someone.

City administrator Mark Skiles said the sheriff’s office having the dog would be “a win/win situation.”

Council member Zach Collett said he wanted something in writing saying the city still owned the dog.

Soyez said any liability was on the sheriff’s office.

Given Blue’s age, the offer made by the sheriff’s office will likely be lower than the $7,000 to $8,000 normally paid for drug dogs, Soyez said.

“She’s just short of halfway through,” Soyez said.

He expects to make an offer in the coming week.

Last modified Nov. 30, 2022

 

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