York County Sheriff’s Office could soon be employing a K9. Here in this 2019 photo, Gorham Police dog Sitka was featured at an event. Portland Press Herald Photo

ALFRED — A dual purpose K9 could been employed in York County soon, giving sheriff’s deputies and police officers in the county’s three largest communities another tool with which to assist in a crisis situation or sniffing out illegal drugs.

York County Commissioners recently authorized the Sheriff’s Office to seek out a dog and check with those in the department for a deputy to act as the animal’s handler in advance of an upcoming training program. Most of the cost — including  purchase of an animal, training, police cruiser modifications to accommodate the dog, a K9 bullet proof vest, an outdoor kennel and doghouse at the handler’s home, a three-year food allowance, a three-year veterinary allowance and other costs, come from a grant of more than $32,000 from The Stanton Foundation. The foundation was created by the late broadcaster Frank Stanton, which makes donations to a wide variety of animal welfare causes throughout New England, nuclear security endeavors and for First Amendment protections.

York County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jeremy Forbes, who was a K9 handler for 23 years with the Maine State Police, said a dual purpose dog can be an asset to a department.

“The mental health calls are skyrocketing,” he said, with people walking out into the woods with the intention of harming themselves. “Having a dog is a huge benefit.”

He pointed out that the three largest communities in York County — Biddeford, Saco and Sanford — don’t have police dogs employed by their departments, and could benefit from having another K9 in the county to assist.

The Sheriff’s Office had a police dog several years ago, but currently relies on the availability of Maine State Police K9s and their handlers if a dog is needed. Wells Police has a dog, as do police departments Kennebunk, North Berwick, and York, in the southernmost region of York County.


He noted the dog could also be useful at York County Jail and provide positive public relations at events such as Acton Fair and Ossipee Valley Fair.

“This will benefit all of York County,” said Forbes.

The sole financial outlay from the Sheriff’s Office would be seven hours per week in extra pay the handler would receive, under the union contract.

County Manager Greg Zinser noted there would be some costs, which he described as minimal, to the county after the first three years.

The vote to acquire a K-9 was unanimous.

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