Selectmen agree Belmont should have its own police dog

BELMONT — After hearing a presentation from Master Patrol Officer Evan Boulanger about the town's need for a K-9 police dog, selectmen last evening unanimously agreed to the proposal.

The money, about $16,000, would come from an $18,000 pool of drug forfeiture money that must be spent on drug intervention work.

Boulanger, who would be the dog's handler, said his research indicted that Castle's K-9, Inc. of Pennsylvania would provide an already trained and socialized dog that could be put into service for Belmont within about three to four months.

Chief Mark Lewandoski said he and Boulanger would go to Pennsylvania and select the dog they believe will fit in best with Belmont. Boulanger said he would house the dog and a local veterinarian has said he would donate the medical care and vaccinations the dog would need. A local vendor said he would provide food for the K-9.

Boulanger said other than the tracking and drug intervention work a K-9 would bring to Belmont, he expects the dog to be a community friendly animal that would be prominent in the town's schools and at town sponsored events.

In 2010 and in 2011 Belmont called for and received K-9 assistance 40 times each year with the majority of those assists coming from Laconia and Gilford. In 2012 and 2013, Belmont has used the dogs of neighboring communities but because of on-going K-9 training in Laconia and Gilford and the recent retirement of Gilford's K-9 Agbar, there aren't as many working K-9s in the immediate area as there were a few years ago.

During a few recent incidents, Lewandoski said the N.H. State Police and neighboring communities were willing to help but the wait time for a dog was over an hour.

In one case that was eventually solved, a burglar had attempted to break into an occupied home but was frightened off by the home owner and responding police. Although police looked for the would-be burglar, he had fled into the woods and had hidden. Police later learned that he had been text messaging a friend and saying the police were very near him but they couldn't find him in the dark. Police also learned he was responsible for other burglaries in the same neighborhood.
A K-9, they said, would have found the man and prevented additional burglaries.

Initially, Selectman Chair Ruth Mooney was skeptical. She said she feared that the department wouldn't be able to afford to the program in the upcoming years and it would only be a matter of time before the police came to selectmen looking for money for the K-9 program or an extra officer to compensate for Boulanger.

Lewandoski assured her that wouldn't happen. Many of the 35 residents in the room who came to support the Police Department's request said they would hold fund-raisers to help offset any future costs.

Selectman Ron Cormier said if it were up to him, he would support including the K-9 in the annual police budget but since the department had already done the work to use drug forfeiture money to pay for the program he would vote to support it immediately.

Selectman Jon Pike agreed with Cormier and Mooney and voted in the affirmative to make the decision unanimous.