TODD MISSION – The City of Todd Mission expanded its police force with the addition of a K9, one-year-old Zava, a Belgian Malinois/ Shepherd mix.
Officer Steven Siracusa, a former K9 handler for Grimes County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO), with approximately 10-years’ experience, was hired by Todd Mission earlier this year. “You must be willing to go the extra mile,” explained Siracusa when asked what makes a good K9 officer. “Having a dog is like having a kid, you have to take care of it every day even when you are off. You have to walk it, play with it and train with it.” He said most of the training is done on his day off. Although it is a cool job, Siracusa said being a K9 officer is a lot of work.
Todd Mission Police Chief Ryan Rutledge said having an officer with the experience and the drive to be a K9 handler is a great asset to the department.
Rutledge introduced the idea of purchasing a K9 to Todd Mission City Manager Neal Wendele, who thought it was a great idea. Rutledge contacted Sector K9 Foundation in Midlothian, a company that has trained multiple dogs for GCSO in the past and whom he and Siracusa have a great working relationship with.
Wes Keeling, of Sector K9, stated he had a K9 ready to go and would include it with the cost of training. Council approved the $5,500 training.
“K9’s are a valuable asset to a department,” explained Rutledge. “Not only are they able to assist with the recovery of illegal narcotics but they can aid in searching for suspects on the run or missing persons.” Rutledge said Siracusa and Zava will also be able to assist other agencies when needed.
Additional costs are associated with K9’s including outfitting units. Rutledge said, “I’d like to give a shout out to Magnolia Police Chief Kyle Montgomery who donated a K9 cage to us.” Rutledge said the cage was practically brand new, having only been used for two-weeks before the vehicle it was installed in was totaled in a wreck. “The vehicle was totaled but the cage was unharmed,” explained Rutledge.
Rutledge said the cage is a 2/3 cage that covers 2/3’s of the rear seat. “A cage like that is approximately $5,000 new,” stated Rutledge. The cage which has gun mounts installed, generally an extra cost, has features to protect the K9 from extreme heat. Rutledge said the cage has heat sensors that notify the handler of extreme temperatures inside the vehicle. “The K9 is left in the vehicle with the air conditioning on and the windows up, but if the vehicle malfunctions and shuts off, it can get really hot really quick.” Other protective measures and alerts that can be programmed include windows rolling down automatically, fans inside the cage turning on, the horn blowing, lights flash, text alerts sent to the police chief etc.
Rutledge said the department had the cost of a cage budgeted, but the donation of this cage will help the budget stretch further. The cage will also be installed free of charge.
Siracusa and Zava have since completed training and are actively patrolling Todd Mission.