KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The Kent County Sheriff's Office is looking to add to its ranks and is turning to the public for help to do it.
Faced with dwindling "traditional" funding opportunities, the Kent County Sheriff's Office is hoping to expand its K-9 unit through crowdfunding donations.
"Grant dollars are drying up, they are fewer and further between right now, especially for these types of programs," said Sheriff Larry Stelma. "There's a tremendous strain on general fund dollars too."
Currently, Kent County has three K-9 units after recently having to put one dog down. The goal is to add three or four more dogs to cover each patrol shift and to share with area agencies, Stelma said.
>> MORE: Donate to expand the Kent County K-9 unit here
The cost to purchase, train and properly outfit each dog with the necessary equipment is roughly $8,000.
Once properly trained, the dogs can assist in narcotics, arson and other investigations, both on the streets and in the county's correctional facility where drug smuggling is a continuous issue, Stelma said.
“The sensitivity and training of these dogs is just absolutely amazing, they are a significant enhancement," he said.
Stelma said it's not the first time the county has turned to public donations to fund the expansion of a program, but he hopes people view it as an opportunity to directly invest in a program they care about in their community.
"This gives the community the opportunity to engage with law enforcement, to engage in things they’re interested in and things close to their hearts," he said. "It gives the people a sense of ownership and connectivity to law enforcement, and that’s important in this day and age.”
A "significant" lead donation from an anonymous donor has already provided enough money for the county to purchase the first additional K-9. Stelma said they will purchase additional dogs as soon as funding becomes available.
Right now, the county is only accepting PayPal payments, but officials say they plan to accept other forms of payment soon.