Police K-9 Dog ‘Apollo’ To Undergo Specialized Boarding While Handler Is Out on Medical Leave

Town officials on Tuesday approved a contract allowing the New Canaan Police Department to board its K-9 Apollo with a New Milford-based company while the officer trained to handle the German shepherd dog undergoes extended medical leave.

NCPD K-9 dog Apollo gets his “badge” during a department awards and promotion ceremony on Sept. 15, 2015 in the Douglass Room at Lapham Community Center. He’s pictured here with Police Chief Leon Krolikowski (L) and his handler, Officer David Rivera. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Board of Selectmen during a special meeting voted 3-0 in favor of the $45-per-day contract (to be paid for through a privately supported fund, see below) with Superior K9 Services LLC—a company founded by a recently retired Norwalk police sergeant who had worked as a K-9 officer in that city.

It isn’t clear just how long Apollo will remain boarded with the company, according to Police Capt. Andrew Walsh, though it’s the best place for the dog for a number of reasons.

New Canaan Police Department K-9 Officer David Rivera with Apollo, at Caffeine & Carburetors on Sept. 11, 2016. Lauren Pavarini photo

For example, Superior K9 “is the company that helped us acquire the dog in the first place,” Walsh said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.

“They work with multiple law enforcement [agencies] in the area, including federal, state and local agencies. They’re the go-to company in the immediate area,” Walsh said.

He continued: “The benefit to using [Superior K9] as opposed to putting the dog in a local kennel for an extended period, is that there would be a mandatory training for the K-9, monthly training and daily training as far as search-and-rescue as well as narcotics detection. This company can provide those services and a regular kennel would not be able to do that, and that would cause remedial training for the dog and the dog handler when the dog handler comes back. So if we put the dog in a regular kennel, I don’t know what the cost would be to get remedial training for the dog—I am not sure what loss of skill the dog would have, it’s not my area—but I know there would be a loss of skill.”

New Canaan Police K-9 Officer David Rivera and Pet Pantry Owner Adam Jacobson stand with K-9 dog Apollo in front of the pet shop on Grove Street in New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

According to Walsh, the $45 per day fee is a discount from a regular rate of $75.

The selectmen asked where the money to pay for the boarding will come from (a special dog fund made up of private donations), how much money is in that fund (about $70,000) and where Apollo is now (still at the home of his K-9 handler).

Selectman Nick Williams asked whether it would make sense at some point to have a “backup handler” for the K-9 unit.

New Canaan Police K-9 Officer David Rivera and drug-sniffing dog Apollo at NCHS on Aug. 26, 2015. Former School Resource Officer Jason Kim stands nearby. Credit: Michael Dinan

Walsh responded that no, the pair “are basically partners” and have established a familiarity and comfort level with one another.

“As far as having another officer trained, that is not cost-effective,” Walsh said. “It costs a lot of money to put an officer through K9 training and if they are not with the dog every day, they lose the skill to handle the dog.”

Selectman Beth Jones said she had been concerned about the animal’s welfare but “I feel much better now.”

Jones was envisioning “solitary confinement,” she said, “because I know he is not allowed to socialize with other dogs.”

“But he [Apollo] will be getting every day interaction with a trainer,” Jones said.

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