ANDERSON — The Madison County Sheriff's Department hopes to have two new K-9 dogs by the end of the year. They're asking for the county's help to make it happen.
At a K-9 media day on Thursday, Sheriff Ron Richardson announced that the department needs to retire and replace Mika, a 12-year-old bomb dog that has cancer.
Mika's replacement will join the county's other unit, a drug dog named Diesel. Richardson said he also hopes to add a third dog by the end of the year so at least one K-9 can be on every shift.
"We're hoping to get donations from businesses throughout Madison County," Richardson said. "We'll also welcome any individual donations from citizens. All donations are tax-deductible."
Deputy Paul Kollros, who works with Mika, said the department is hoping to replace her with another bomb dog. As the only bomb dog unit in the county, the dog is a valuable asset. Mika has been with department since 2001, after a grant from the newly-created Department of Homeland Security enabled the purchase. Kollros said he and Mika spend about 1,500 hours a year training together. The bomb dog also does work outside the county, working closely with the Delaware County Bomb Squad and State Police, but Kollros estimated they do about 95 percent of their work in Madison County.
Mika has mammary carcinosarcoma cancer and recently had to have a mass removed from her midsection. Because of health issues, Richardson said, she needs to be retired.
Both Mika and Diesel are Belgian Malinois, and Richardson said the department is looking for two new dogs of the same breed. He said he would like the third dog to be another multipurpose tracking-drug dog like Diesel.
All told, the dogs cost around $20,000 each for purchase, training and all other expenses, with the drug dog being slightly less expensive. Deputy Justin Weber, who works with Diesel, said he considers the dog his partner and another officer, and it's hard to put a price tag on how valuable K-9 units can be.