After months of fundraising, preparation and training, the Sebring Police Department now has a K9 member.
Detective Chad Redfern and his Dutch shepard named Ollie (pronounced Oh-lee) recently completed training and received their certification.
Redfern has been with the department for two years and it’s the first K9 he’s handled.
Redfern went to Chief Ray Harris with the idea of getting a K9 for the department and helped to restart the Sebring Police Association. The organization then was able to accept donations to fund the program.
Funding a K9 program costs $70,000 to $80,000, which includes acquiring the dog, a specially equipped cruiser and training for the animal and officer. Trained police K9s cost about $15,000, which includes the cost of the dog, training for the handler and the certification, all through Tri-State K9 Services in Warren.
“There was no way the village had the resources (to fund the program),” said Redfern.
Fundraising began in May, and by August, the group had met its goal and made a deposit on a dog.
“Without the community, this dog wouldn’t be possible,” Redfern said of the $20,000 in donations. “It’s overwhelming the money that was raised in just a few months.”
In addition to donations from citizens and the sale of T-shirts, Sebring Tire donated the K9 vehicle, and Sue Sanor at Leonard Hardware sold T-shirts and tickets to fundraising events.
Redfern said the American Legion had a poker run and breakfast, and various churches and youth groups hosted fundraisers.
“Dery Zepperneck and the Sebring Historical Society were very gracious to help us out,” said Redfern. “We were able to use their backing through the IRS (501C 3) for the grant.”
The department gets food for Ollie at no cost, from Blackwood Dog Food of Lisbon.
“Karen Geissinger, who grew up in Alliance and now of Sommersville, S.C., is donating his ballistic vest,” Redfern said. “She didn’t have any kids and made it her passion doing ballistic vests for dogs.”
Geissinger reached to Sebring to help fund the K9 program. Redfern added Geissinger has a sister and brother-in-law that still live in Alliance.
Veterinary care is donated by Adamson Veterinary Services in Salem. It includes wellness checks and vaccinations. Preventive medicines for fleas, ticks and heartworm are not covered.
“We are so thankful to public, all the people who donated,” said Redfern. “It’s great what the community has done to support the program and how it will help the village and surrounding area.”
The department spends $634 per year for insurance for Ollie.
Harris has been on board from the beginning.
“For some reason, the pubic likes a K9, therein likes a good community relationship,” said Harris. “The dog has the ability to help in the deterrent of drugs and can also search for missing people.”
Harris noted the large population at Copeland Oaks. “We have had numerous reports of people wandering off, and the dog is able to track,” he said.
Harris added that the dog can be utilized in drug enforcement. For example, if an officer stops a vehicle and they suspect there are drugs inside, but the driver doesn’t give consent to search, the K9 can do an open-air search.
“With the K9 it gives the officer probable cause to search,” said Harris. “Already, we’ve had one incident where the dog has been deployed twice for an open-air search.”
If another agency, such as Beloit, Smith Township or Alliance, would need assistance, Ollie could be requested to take part. Harris said Ollie also can be used by Sebring and West Branch school districts to check lockers for contraband.