NEW CASTLE, Ind. – Earlier this year, New Castle police were looking to grow their K-9 program, not restart it. Now, thousands of dollars have quickly poured in to help the department get two dogs back on duty before the end of summer.
In March, leaders with the New Castle Police Department decided it was time to expand the K-9 program from one dog to two.
However, a few weeks later, things changed when Lex, the only K-9 in the department, unexpectedly passed away due to a health condition.
“Lex and his handler, Officer Pierce had developed a really special bond," said New Castle Asst. Chief, Justin Wardlow. "With that being our only K-9, it was a very big loss. It was a big loss for her personally, for the department, and for the citizens of New Castle."
It costs approximately $20,000 to get a dog, which is followed by the costs to train one, too. So, to get two, the department needs roughly $40,000.
Late last week, the police department learned city leaders had committed matching fundraising efforts up to $20,000.
Several fundraisers have taken place, with more still to come, to help police reach their goal.
Tayler Reece, who is related to an officer, held "Bling in the K-9" where she raised nearly $2,100 by selling "paparazzi jewelry." Cross Road Church held a tenderloin benefit, which brought in roughly another $2,000.
This past weekend, t-shirt and hoodies that honor Lex were passed out. The dark blue shirt had a silhouette of Lex, his end of watch, and a New Castle K-9 badge on it. There were 230 items that came in the first shipment have almost fully been sold. The order should generate close to $2,200. A second order is going in now, allowing more of the clothing items to be sold at summer festivals and other events.
“To meet (Officer Pierce) and to find out how enthused and in-depth she is about her training, and her responsibilities as a K-9 handler made it really easy to want to support her in any way we could," said Heather Logan, one of the leaders behind the t-shirt effort.
Logan is part of a group of women shooters, called The Well-Armed Woman, which meets once a month at a local shooting range. She said the group had the chance to meet Pierce and Lex when she spoke to the group in the past year.
More fundraisers are still scheduled. A deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office is planning a golf outing for June 30. Donations can also be made at the Eastern Indiana Federal Credit Union.
Wardlow said he believe Pierce and a new handler will be able to pick out their new dogs at an Indiana kennel later this month, and get into a training program in July.
If that goes as scheduled, the new police dogs should be working New Castle streets sometime in August or September.