2016-11-17 / Front Page

S-B couple offers $10,000 for Nico

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


DEPUTY NICO is five years old. DEPUTY NICO is five years old. A routine action by the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night unexpectedly turned into a $10,000 gift.

Commissioners were slated to approve a request from the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office to set up a procedure to accept monetary donations to the sheriff’s K-9 program.

The board approved that request, but also learned that a Suttons Bay couple had already pledged to provide $10,000 to match any donations made to support the K-9 program.

The Sheriff’s Office currently has one dog on its roster, a five-year-old German Shepherd named Nico who is partnered with Deputy Greg Hornkohl. The county acquired Nico and provided training for him and Hornkohl through a $15,000 casino revenue sharing payment from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

But funding to sustain the K-9 program into the future is uncertain. That prompted Undersheriff Steve Morgan to request that an online “Go Fund Me” account be set up to accommodate local citizens who had expressed a desire to support the county’s K-9 program.

The County Board approved that request in a 7-0 vote this week.

But the board and members of the public in attendance at this week’s meeting also learned that Barbara and Dudley Smith of Suttons Bay have offered to match any donations to the county’s K-9 program with up to $10,000 of their own money.

The Smiths are well known locally for their philanthropy, having donated substantial sums to the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City and the Smith Family Breast Health Center at Munson Medical Center.

“We’re certainly dog lovers but, more importantly, we recognize what dogs can do,” Dudley Smith said when contacted Wednesday morning. “We think dogs can be more widely used. Dogs can not only sniff out drugs and firearms and people, they can also detect cancer and many other things.”

Undersheriff Morgan said it costs about $8,000 to acquire a police dog and another $2,000 or so to train the dog with its human partner. For now, though, all funds donated to the county’s K-9 program will be used to pay for dog food, specialized equipment, veterinary bills and other routine costs.

A dog’s service life in police work is usually about eight years. Any of the donated money and matching funds remaining in the county’s special K-9 fund after Nico retires will be used to help pay for and train Nico’s replacement, Morgan said.

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