The city’s two police dogs are slated to be cut from the budget at the end of the month to save money.
Agbar and Dara, both German shepherds trained to track people and sniff out drugs, are the latest victims of the budget crunch that cut seven police officer positions at the beginning of the year and also will end the anti-drug DARE program this spring.
The city will save at least $10,000 this year in dog food, vet bills and overtime for officer training, said Chief Christopher Cole.
“We have to make some tough, difficult decisions,” Cole said. While the amount may not seem like much, the department’s overtime budget has been criticized as being too high for years and has been reduced in this year’s spending plan, he said.
“All these decisions are being made in an attempt to work within our budget.”
The dogs’ last day is Feb. 26.
The two canine officers, Paul Veitch and Mark Leffler, will be assigned to patrol duties and have the opportunity to keep their dogs as pets.
Veitch has said he will keep Agbar, but Leffler, who recently got Dara, has not said either way yet, Cole said.
Rather than paying the officers overtime to care for their dogs — the state requires canine officers to be compensated for the dogs’ care — the city would allocate an hour a day from the officers’ shifts and they would go home early, Cole said.
Officers and their dogs underwent training between two and four times a month all around the state.
Another reason to cut the dogs out of the budget is so that the police department can reclaim the two canine vehicles and use them as patrol cars. There is no money for vehicles in the 2010 budget, Cole said.
“We’re looking at a lot of different reasons why we have to do this.”
Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department and the state police both have police canines, but Cole said there’s no guarantee those agencies will have dogs available when the city police need them.
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