The Washington Township Police Department has received more than $20,000 for its K-9 unit, collected during the holiday’s first K-9 season of giving.
The K-9 unit is home to five working dogs and their handlers and is supported solely through donations from the community; it receives no government funding.
“Russell Puglia, a township resident who owns Puglia Produce, started the K-9 season of giving by coming by and dropping off a check for the K-9 unit, which he has done on his own for years,” said Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik. “We posted a thank You on our Facebook page and another donation came in the very next day.”
According to the chief, after the first wave of K-9 donations came in, the police department decided on a goal of $10,000 in gifts by the end of the year. But that number vastly underestimated the township community’s generosity, including that of businesses and the Chamber of Commerce. The $20,000 garnered will help the unit pay for food, medical insurance and health-care bills.
“The whole idea was born from one person’s generosity,” said Gurcsik, referring to Puglia. “We wanted to try to raise the money before the end of the year and we were pretty successful. We received donations through the end of the year of all different levels.”
Most K-9 units are used to aid officers in an arrest or a traffic stop. But now that cannabis is legal in the state, drug detection is at the forefront.
“With marijuana now legal in New Jersey, police dogs that were specially trained to detect marijuana could no longer legally be used for drug sniffs,” Gurcsik explained. “A well-trained canine team is essential to deterring criminals and for assisting our police department in locating illegal drugs, in tracking wanted persons and with finding missing persons and children …
“Our K-9 unit is an important and valued tool.”
Three new K-9 officers will be added to the force this year.