The next peace officer hired in Iron and Beaver counties could be the four-legged kind.
Local law enforcement officials have met with the Iron County commission seeking financial support to buy a police dog trained in narcotics detection, tracking and aggression.Iron County Sheriff Ira Schoppmann said the Iron/Beaver County Drug Task Force has already pledged $4,000 toward the animal's purchase, leaving officers $3,500 short.
In making his case, Schoppmann alluded to an incident several years ago in which a community boy was missing and presumed lost in the mountains outside Cedar City.
Since no tracking dogs were available in southern Utah, search teams had to be brought in from Salt Lake City.
"By the time you house and feed the animals and give meals to their trainers, you are running into quite a bit of money," he said. "We could use a dog that can track; it could be very valuable."
Iron and Beaver counties now use three trained police animals: narcotics dogs owned by the Cedar City Police Department and Beaver County sheriff's office, and an aggression dog owned by the Iron County sheriff's office.
The Iron County dog is losing its effectiveness, however, due to old age, and the fact that the narcotics dogs respond to a single trainer has made it impossible for them to be available at all times to all area agencies, officials said.
Commissioners R.L. Gardner and Jim Robinson agreed a multi-purpose dog could be of benefit, but questioned the need for advanced aggressiveness training - a question echoed by Cedar City Police Chief Pete Hansen.
"There is a need for a backup animal. Personally, I'm not excited about an aggression animal; I don't think there is need in this small community, but we do need a tracking dog in this area," he said.
The commissioners agreed to take the matter under advisement, and to seek cooperational funding between the county and sheriff's department budgets.
"I don't want to argue this, because I am in favor of helping law enforcement, but we are concerned where the money will come from," Gardner said. "We just did not set aside $3,500 for a dog in this budget."