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Wed, Jul 26, 2017 07:52 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Dope sniffers may get nosed out
PAINTSVILLE — After brief stints in the drug dog business, the regional jail and Paintsville police are doggoned if they know what to do with drug-sniffing canines who have no dog handlers.

Recent hirings at the new federal prison have left the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center with a few less jail staffers, including the facility's dog handler — deputy jailer Wil Lampert.

Although jail officials say the drug dog has given them an edge in fighting the flow of drugs through the facility, jail administrator Henry "Butch" Williams says the dog's usefulness has run its course...especially since its handler will soon be moving on.

Due to the costs associated with having another handler trained to work with the drug-detection dog, Williams said he will recommend to the jail authority that the canine, Aston, be put "up for auction" to regional police departments and "sold to the highest bidder."

The Paintsville Police Department is in a similar predicament, after dabbling in the drug dog business for just a few months. And, after giving a single patrolman free reign to solicit funds and implement the program within the police force.

Less than five months after spending thousands of donated dollars to purchase a drug dog and have himself trained as its handler, officer Brent Meadows reportedly resigned from the force for personal reasons, leaving the agency with a dog and no one qualified to use it.

Meadows has not been a presence on the city police force for several weeks and his resignation became effective on April 1. With solicited funds, Meadows purchased the dog and underwent training with the canine in September.

Police chief Larry VanHoose said Monday that the police force was "in limbo" over what to do with the trained canine — a black Lab named Sid — and no handler.

The drug dog program at the Paintsville Police Department has currently been canceled by the police chief, who said a "small department like this just doesn't have the call (volume) to justify the cost.

"...Right now, the cost is too great to put him (Sid) back in service," VanHoose said.

The police chief said he checked into the cost of training another officer with the drug dog, but he noted that $1,000 for the training of an officer, who would need to be dedicated solely to working, and living, with the dog and regular training sessions, would be too much of a strain on the city police force budget.

At the jail, Williams said Tuesday that he initially thought the drug dog could be used to search inmates as they were lodged in the regional jail, but he later learned that any prisoners trying to smuggle drugs into the jail could be in danger of being bitten.

The jail administrator also noted that handling a drug dog is very demanding and, with the loss of experienced deputy jailers, the jail could not afford to staff a worker who would have to train with the dog on a regular basis.

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