Porterdale leases new K-9 officer

PORTERDALE -- Despite some earlier debate on the subject, a lease agreement for a K-9 officer for the city's Police Department was approved without comment at last week's City Council meeting.

The agreement between the city and Porterdale Police Sgt. Jason Cripps calls for the city to pay $1 per year to Cripps, who owns the dog and is also the K-9 handler for the department. The lease is for one year, with an option to renew annually for four one-year terms.

Cripps agreed to provide the dog, Nina, a Belgian Malinois, trained, certified and fit for use as part of the K-9 team. Cripps will provide the necessary K-9 equipment that he already owns, and the city agreed to pay for miscellaneous replacement items as needed. These replacement costs will not exceed $200 per year.

The city also agreed to pay certification fees for Cripps and Nina and fees associated with attending an annual training seminar. The city will also fund ordinary veterinary expenses and emergency vet expenses of $1,000, with another $1,000 that can be spent at the discretion of the city manager if the treatment would return Nina to "serviceable status."

During earlier discussions, Cripps told the council that certification fees are approximately $300 per year. He estimated veterinary medications at $150 per year.

The contract calls for Cripps and Nina to work as a team. Porterdale pays its K-9 handler for 16 hours per pay period, for a total of 416 hours per year. Cripps receives approximately $7,000 per year as the K-9 handler for Porterdale.

The city will maintain liability insurance coverage on Nina while the dog is performing in the role of a member of the Porterdale Police Department. Cripps agreed to maintain liability insurance on the dog when the dog is not performing as a Porterdale Police K-9 officer.

The lease will automatically terminate if Cripps leaves the employment of the Police Department or is terminated. The city has the discretion to terminate the lease immediately if either Cripps or Nina become unable to perform the duties of a K-9 team.

Not included in the contract is a $10,000 life insurance policy on the dog, payable to Cripps if the dog were killed in the line of duty. That stipulation was included in an earlier version of the contract; however, city officials learned that the city's insurance policy would not cover the dog if it were not owned by the city.

Cripps told the council in October that the city's current K-9 officer, Beau, a golden retriever, is aging and is unable to continue to work as he has in the past. Cripps said he would continue to use Beau as an ambassador to schools and other groups.

Cripps told the council at that time that he wanted to lease his dog to the city for $1 per year because he wants to see Porterdale's K-9 program continue even when Beau is too old to work. Purchasing a new, trained K-9 would cost the city $10,000 to $12,000, according to Cripps.