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Edgerton police dog won’t return to duty

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 2, 2010
— If city officials plan to revive Edgerton’s stalled K-9 program, they’ll have to find a new police dog. Ash, the city’s de-listed K-9 officer, is out.

Tuesday, Alderman Ken Westby offered a motion for the council to discuss reversing its May 17 decision to replace the two-year-old German shepherd after it bit a city employee last month.


Westby’s motion failed to draw a second, effectively killing the request Tuesday before any city council discussion or public comment could take place. It means the council will stay with its original decision to keep the dog out of service.


The city will resume its plan to find a new owner for the dog, City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said Tuesday.


About 30 members of the public had turned out for the meeting Tuesday, which was held at Edgerton Public Library.


Also in the crowd was the dog’s original trainer, Larry Filo of Steinig Tal kennel, Campbellsport, and Walworth County Sheriff’s deputy and K-9 handler Bob Weirenga, who had independently evaluated the dog following the city’s decision to board it at Kenlyn Kennels in Edgerton.


Filo said he was disappointed he drove two hours to attend a five-minute meeting that ended before any discussion could take place. He said he had come willing to talk to the public about K-9 training and about the bite incidents.


“It was a long drive for nothing,” Filo said.


Filo has refused to allow the city to return Ash to Steinig Tal kennel, citing handler error. The dog bit a city employee May 10 after the dog’s handler, police chief Tom Klubertanz, removed its muzzle and left it untied in his office at the city’s police department building.


Westby said he is disappointed the council rebuffed his motion Tuesday, which he made after a May 21 request by Klubertanz that the city reconsider and return the dog to service.


“I’m disappointed. I wanted to discuss the facts of it. We’ll have to start over again at the public safety level. Hopefully the program will take off again,” Westby said.


Westby said the city has learned an expensive lesson: He said it should have prepared a K-9 policy before the program started.


The purchase of Ash cost the city $8,500 plus handler training costs, some of which was paid through grants and donations.


It’s unclear if the city will recoup the cost by re-selling the dog, although Wierenga told the Gazette he has helped other police departments place biting K-9 dogs with other agencies. He said he’d help the city place Ash at no cost.


“This dog will not take a bullet. This dog will go into a police K-9 program someplace,” Wierenga said.


Edgerton resident David Popodi said he expected more discussion Tuesday, but he’s glad the city didn’t bring Ash back into service.


“The program needs more oversight than what it had. I think it was rushed too much. I don’t think there was proper training before anyone was told how to react to this dog that was brought in to essentially hurt people,” Popodi said.


Ash was trained for narcotics, tracking and handler protection, officials have said.


Alderman Mark Wellnitz told the Gazette he had previously asked Wierenga, as well as managers at Kenlyn Kennels, for opinions on the dog’s demeanor and trainability.


Wellnitz said owners and trainers at Kenlyn had given him letters saying Ash was well behaved and trainable, but that wasn’t enough to convince him to discuss bringing the dog back.


“My mind keeps going back to the liability issue,” Wellnitz said.



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