For several years now, the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital has provided for all the veterinary needs of the Mt. Laurel Police Department’s K-9 Unit, consisting of Officer Chris O’Prandy with his K-9 partner Gunner, and Officer Wilmer Santiago with his K-9 partner Nina. Recently, the owners of the local animal hospital decided to extend their services to the department even further by launching a fundraiser with an aim to expand the capabilities of the unit by way of a third K-9 to be trained as an explosives detector dog.
The department’s two K-9 units, Gunner and Nina, are trained as police service and detector dogs. On the job, they may be called on to assist with locating a missing person or a suspect attempting to evade apprehension, sniffing out illegal narcotics or simply acting as a bridge for officers to engage with their community.
This new unit will be a useful tool when it comes to expanding what potential threats the department is prepared to respond to. With the right training, this K-9 will be able to complete sweeps of public buildings such as churches, schools or municipal facilities, and alert officers to the presence of any firearms or explosives within the area.
“You hope to never have to use a lot of these tools, but the more tools we have, the more services we can provide to the community,” said Public Information Officer Kyle Gardner.
Earlier this month, the local animal hospital launched a GoFundMe page, mlahvet.com/bombdog, bearing a title that makes their mission clear: Bring the First Bomb Dog to Mount Laurel. In just its first few weeks, the page has raised just over $500. Ultimately, the hospital hopes to reach its overall goal of $75,000.
According to veterinarian and co-owner of the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital, Dr. Robert Mankowski, they have always maintained a positive working relationship with their local police force.
“They’re our neighbors right down the street. They’ve always helped us out if we’re holding an event. We have a good relationship,” said Mankowski.
In recent discussions, they became aware of how much is required of the two dogs the department currently has, and of their desire to expand the program despite lacking the funds to do so.
The grand majority of the costs of maintaining the department’s K-9 program are covered through donations and fundraising events put on by the department itself, such as their annual K-9 5K race. Currently, the cost of adding an additional unit exceeds the grasp of the program’s budget alone.
“We’re at the point where we want to see the program grow and the only way to do that is to have the support of the community,” said Gardner. “It’s great to have the animal hospital behind us because they are such a well known hospital, they’re right in our hometown and they’re just a great support network.”
According to Gardner, the brunt of the cost of bringing on this new K-9 unit will be a new, properly outfitted vehicle needed to transport the dog. The cost of the animal itself and its training will be relatively small.
In addition to donations from the public, the animal hospital is seeking sponsorships from local businesses. So far, the project has attracted support from F.C. Kerbeck and Lockheed Martin. Information about sponsorship opportunities is available on the GoFundMe page. A business that makes a particularly generous donation can earn naming rights for the K-9 and even have its logo appear on the K-9 vehicle itself.
“We’re just proud to be part of this community and to try to make this happen to help protect our community and shed light on what the police do and what these K-9 units are capable of,” said Mankowski.
For more information on the fundraiser, or to make a donation, visit the Mount Laurel Animal Hospital’s GoFundMe page at mlahvet.com/bombdog.