K9 benefit complete success
Between donations and benefits, $25,000 raised for anti-drug program
Originally published in the June 14 edition of the Bandera Bulletin newspaper. Reprinted with permission.
By James Taylor - Associate Editor-in-Chief
In four weeks time, the citizens and businesses of Bandera have banded together and managed to raise just shy of $25,000 to establish a K9 drug dog program in the city. Between donations, benefits and matching funds, the program has developed from wishful thinking to reality.
"We are amazed at the support that we have gotten from the citizens," Bandera Police Department (BPD) Chief Shane Merritt said. "It just really reinforced in my mind that there is a tremendous amount of support for law enforcement in our area."
BPD Officer Allen Kelley, a trained and certified K9 dog handler, began talk in early May about establishing such a program in Bandera. Besides being trained himself, Kelley's dog Madison is a certified K9 drug dog. With expressed support from Merritt and local business owners, the department began taking donations to measure the citizens' interest. An overwhelming response of over $11,000 in the first week, including thousands of dollars in donations from Bandera businesses, led the department to ask City Council for permission to continue taking donations. Permission was granted and support shown by the council.
A benefit was held on June 10 by the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, which raised $7,983 through live and silent auctions, live music, a dunk-a-cop dunking booth, and a Cowgirls on Main program that sent out 15 of Bandera's loveliest ladies on horseback to collect funds from visitors and businesses.
Add to this a $5,000 matching donation from the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the grand total comes to just under $25,000, which is more than enough to purchase a brand new vehicle for the department, outfit it as a K9 unit, and pay for other incidentals within the program.
"We can purchase our car, outfit it, and there should still be funds available for yearly maintenance of the program," Merritt said. "We're really tickled to be able to do all of this."
Although the department's goal of $25,000 has been reached, donations are still being taken to help with future training, outfitting and maintenance costs for the program. For more information, call Merritt at 830-796-3456.
Merritt will go before city council at their July 20 meeting to request final approval for the program. Within a month from that time, the K9 unit should be rolling in Bandera.
"I attribute all this to the Lord's blessing and the hard work of a lot of people, including our officers," Merritt said.
Kelley has remained active and instrumental in each step toward establishing the program.
"Officer Kelley is the backbone of the K9 program," 11th Street owner James McGroarty said. "There is no doubt that if Officer Kelley had not mentioned the idea to certain individuals within the community, no one would have ever thought about or even realized [this program could be done]… Officer Kelley has literally been involved at all levels."
Merritt concurred, stating that without Kelley's effort, "I don't think we would have ever gotten to this point."
During the 11th Street benefit, Kelley and his family, including Madison, made regular appearances around town to talk about the program and to run the dunk-a-cop booth.
"He raised over $300 in the dunking booth alone, which is to say that people either really wanted to dunk him or they were very generous," McGroarty joked. "He really is amazing."
Kelley's wife, Misty, also an officer with the BPD, said that it was "really nice" to see the community come out and support the program.
McGroarty, who has been a vocal supporter of the K9 program since it was first suggested, said that community and volunteer support has been the catalyst in making the program not only a possibility, but a reality.
"From all of our hearts that were a part of the campaign, and I know it's from everyone, we thank you," McGroarty said.
The K9 program
"The K9 program is basically an added tool that we have to help us fight illegal drugs," Merritt said," Merritt said. "A drug K9 is basically an extension of an officer's abilities and senses on traffic stops, searches, and things like that."
Madison will be considered a employee of the department for insurance purposes.
"She is insured just like a police officer is," Merritt said. "She will be insured through the Texas Municipal League. As far as vet bills or mortality, she will be insured - she is considered an employee."
Merritt said she will also have the same protections as a police officer. For instance, during a traffic stop, if she is kicked or otherwise assaulted, it is considered the equivalent of assaulting an officer.
"There are specific laws for protection of police animals," Merritt said. "She is a trained service animal - there are laws to protect her."
Such a situation is less than likely to occur. At the June 15 city council meeting, Kelley explained that search subjects would be separated from their vehicle before Madison would be brought out, ensuring no contact between subject and dog during the search.
Madison will be used solely as a drug dog. Other roles K9 dogs can be trained for include patrol dogs, attack dogs, search dogs, and other specializations.
"She's as sweet as she can be; she's a good dog," Merritt said. "She's out to get those drugs."
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