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Dog's life to improve at Allen County Sheriff Department's canine training facility

Monday, December 30, 2013 - 6:43 am

Outside, the drainage trough is broken and filled with snow and ice.

Inside the building that is supposed to warm the attached plywood and steel kennels, buckets of frozen water sit just feet from the single small heater.

For animals at the Allen County Sheriff Department's canine training facility, it's clearly a dog's life. But if all goes well, the dog-eared 40-year-old center adjacent to the Byron Health Center at 12101 Lima Road will soon be replaced with a $500,000 center that, unlike its predecessor, will be fit for man and beast.

With the help of a $60,000 grant from National Serv-All, Deputy Chief Dave Gladieux said the department has begun planning for a new facility on 200 acres near Adams Center and Paulding roads that Sheriff Ken Fries has envisioned as a $20 million multi-purpose training complex but, as of now, contains little more than a shooting range and unfulfilled dreams. Although Fries has long insisted the land would be developed without the use of tax money – he has sponsored a circus, cruise and other events to raise money – Gladieux hopes the county budget will provide the rest of the project's cost, since a county-funded facility already exists.

And that facility, Gladieux said, is on its last legs.

Although county canine officers are allowed to keep their dogs at home, the Lima Road site hosts training classes and provides kennel space for dogs being trained by other departments. As a result, it generates some income for the county – as much as $400 to train one dog – and making the facility more attractive and functional could produce even more business.

“We don't make much money, but our timing is pretty good. My argument (to county officials) will be, can we use some of the money the department could have left over at the end of the year?” he said.

The department's instructors take untrained dogs and teach them to be approachable, to obey commands, to track and apprehend and to identify such items as drugs or explosives. Much of the work is done in an enclosed outdoor area, but in addition to the need for kennel space classroom instruction is often needed for the dogs' human handlers. The existing building, filled with food and other items that are kept on a table to avoid rodents, has little room for that. The new facility would, Gladieux said.

The department's planned move is timely for a second reason, Gladieux added. The current facility is located on 120 county-owned acres that were once home to the Irene Byron Sanitarium, which treated tuberculosis patients between 1919 and 1976. Most of the sanitarium's buildings are long gone, and the county would like to sell the land for eventual development. So the department's dogs may have to move, in any case.

“This is a project that has to be done one way or another,” said Fries, who was uncertain whether County Council will allow the department to use any left-over 2013 funds, preferring instead to wrap them into the county's overall 2014 budget. “But even if council says 'no,' it's not dead. We'll look for grants or other funding sources. We won't give up,” he insisted.