Jerauld County officials seeking drug dogSheriff Jason Weber formally submitted paperwork Tuesday to apply for a drug dog.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
WESSINGTON SPRINGS — The Jerauld County Sheriff’s Office has gained support from the county, Wessington Springs and Alpena to add another member to its staff.
A four-legged one.
Sheriff Jason Weber formally submitted paperwork Tuesday to apply for a drug dog.
“Just because there’s no problem currently doesn’t mean there won’t be one later,” Weber said. “I want to prevent problems. I’d rather be proactive than reactive.”
If all goes well, Deputy Shane Mentzer will go to school for six to eight weeks to train with the dog at South Dakota Highway Patrol facilities in Pierre, Weber said.
Weber said Jerauld County, like some others, has problems with drugs and two major state highways that intersect in the county fuel the issue. Weber said the local communities are his main concentration and then the highways and the people traveling on them.
“There are narcotics going down (state highways) 281 and 34 and we have both those roads,” he said. “I want to prevent problems.”
The total cost of the project is unknown at this point, Weber said.
Weber applied for funding for the drug dog program through the state drug control fund. The fund was started in 1976 to help local law enforcement agencies enhance drug control and drug offender apprehension.
It is funded through the sale of confiscated property or seized cash used in drug crimes, Weber said.
Weber hopes the state’s grant, along with $5,000 from both Alpena and the county for start-up funding, annual funding from Wessington Springs, and many private donations will support the drug dog program.
The grant money would cover the cost of a patrol vehicle, the dog and other equipment, Weber said.
The county, Alpena and Wessington Springs have all committed to supporting the drug dog program and agreed to split the cost equally each year. The cost to the towns and county would include veterinarian care, food and equipment.
A local veterinarian, Kelli Tobin, of the Rolling Hills Veterinary Clinic, has had experience caring for police canines and has agreed to provide 24-hour care for the dog.
To make the program most effective, Weber said he applied for a Belgian malinois, which looks like a smaller version of a German shepherd.
“They’re more driven, they live longer and they’re really smart dogs,” Weber said.
The dog will only be used to sniff out narcotics, not for the apprehension of criminals.
He said a quick look at the Jerauld County court calendar will tell anyone there’s a definite drug problem in the county.
“Being a small agency, it takes a lot of dedication to investigate these situations,” he said. “We want to address the issue more efficiently.”