Montville police welcome new patrol dog to the force

Zed, a 2½-year-old German shepherd, is pictured in this undated photo. Zed joined the Montville Police Department this month as a patrol K-9. Officer Daniel Witts is his handler. (Courtesy of the Montville Police Department)
Zed, a 2½-year-old German shepherd, is pictured in this undated photo. Zed joined the Montville Police Department this month as a patrol K-9. Officer Daniel Witts is his handler. (Courtesy of the Montville Police Department)

Montville — The Montville Police Department this week welcomed to town a new, 2½-year-old patrol dog named Zed, police Lt. Leonard Bunnell confirmed Friday morning.

It’s take two for the force, which last month brought on 5-month-old Lother, a Dutch shepherd.

Bunnell said Lother, purchased through a grant the department received, successfully completed about two weeks of training in Texas. But something happened in the transition from Texas back to Montville that changed the dog’s personality.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” Bunnell said of what happened. “We’re surmising that because of its age, it was performing properly in Texas and now it’s not.”

Faced with a decision to either wait it out with Lother or move on with another dog, the department chose the latter. (Police announced the choice in a lighthearted Facebook post proclaiming, "Lother has been released to follow his dreams of becoming a herder of sheep.")

That’s largely because the Montville force, which has a narcotics dog but has been fundraising for a patrol K-9 for months, had money available to buy Zed, a German shepherd.

Bunnell didn’t have figures in front of him, but said the outright cost of a K-9 can range from $10,000 to $20,000, depending in part on how much training it receives prior to joining a department.

“We’ve had a very good public response to this program in terms of donations,” Bunnell said. “So we’re still ahead of the game as far as the cost goes.”

Bunnell said the impact of Zed and his handler, Officer Daniel Witts, should be swift and vast.

Montville’s status as a resident state trooper town, he explained, means it can’t use dogs from nearby towns so long as a state police K-9 is available. In some cases, that has forced officers to wait for a dog from as far away as Fairfield, hindering searches and sometimes the prosecution of cases.

Now officers will be able to call on Zed and Witts.

“There are of course 24 hours in a day, so the dog won't be available all the time,” Bunnell said. “But the availability is going to be much better.”

Bunnell said Zed and Witts are gearing up for three months of training at the state Police Academy, after which the team will be able to track suspects and missing people alike as well as apprehend suspects when necessary.

“When you have a mother, a father of a missing child who want that child found, we’re going to have a quicker response with a highly trained animal to help find that child,” Bunnell said. “This is going to be a benefit to the town for many years to come.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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