Uniontown police looking for donations to reinstate K9 unit | TribLIVE.com

Uniontown police looking for donations to reinstate K9 unit

Megan Tomasic
K9 officer’s Leonidas and Xavier stand with their handlers Officer Michael Garrow and Officer Matthew Painter.

The Uniontown City Police Department is hoping to add new members to its force, and these ones will have four paws and a tail.

Originally implemented in 2008, the department’s K9 unit lasted until its last two dogs — Leonidas and Xavier — both died earlier this year.

“Once we lost both K9s, it became apparent to me that no one wanted to function as a department without these resources,” Chief Jason Cox said in a news release. “Unfortunately, we live in a landlocked community where the tax rolls are declining each year, so we just don’t have the funds to get things started on our own again.”

Uniontown police are looking for donations to help reinstate the department’s K9 unit. Officers are hoping to raise at least $25,000, which will cover start-up costs including supplying two dogs, training, vehicle adaptations for K9s, equipment and animal care.

Cox said community members have already shown support for the project, but that officers are pushing the idea that the program will impact communities outside of city limits.

“With the dogs, we’ve been able to host Mister Rogers Day and all kinds of other events; we can go to different Boy Scout troops and do K9 demonstrations for merit badges,” Cox said. “They’re also an additional resource to anywhere covered by state police jurisdiction, because we’re able to assist other agencies outside our community that need help with narcotics or bomb threat investigations.”

He added the K9 program is effective when tracking criminals or missing children.

During his time on the force, Leonidas, who was paired with Officer Michael Garrow, was trained in narcotics and patrol. Leonidas retired in 2016 after he was diagnosed with Wobbler Disease, a disease of the cervical spine where the spinal cord and nerve roots are compressed, leading to neurological signs or neck pain, according to PetMD.

Leonidas received a “last ride” in a patrol car in March .

Xavier, who was paired with Officer Matthew Painter, was trained in bomb detection and patrol. He remained on patrol until July 2018 when he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

“We as a police department are here to support our community, so any support the community, in turn, takes hold of really comes back as a resource for them as residents. If somebody chooses to help, that’s great,” Cox said. “We’re not asking for support for something that isn’t going to have a direct impact on services locally. It seems that the ask has so far been very embraced in the community, and myself, along with the mayor and council, are very appreciative of that.”

Donations can be mailed to the Uniontown City Police Department at 45 E. Penn St. Checks can be made payable to the City of Uniontown K9 Fund. All donations are tax deductible.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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