Montebello police officers’ furry partners received a bit of extra help last week from local citizens.
A community group raised $1,500 for the Montebello Police Department’s K9 unit at a recent event held at Alondra Hot Wings.
From noon until 9pm on April 25, purchases made at the restaurant went toward a fund for the police department’s K9 unit. The funds from the annual event – started last year by the Montebello Police K9 Association – will pay for veterinary bills, maintenance, training, and grooming of the K9 dogs.
The funds are especially needed this year because one of the dogs, Ozzy, passed away suddenly on April 11.
He and his handler Cpl. Steve Sharpe were on their way to training when Ozzy began breathing abnormally. Despite being taken straight to the vet, Ozzy’s condition worsened, and he died in his handler’s arms.
Doctors say Ozzy succumbed to spontaneous pneumothorax – his lung collapsed
Ozzy began serving over four years ago and was seven years old when he died. During his service, he located 6 dangerous suspects, and caused another 17 suspects to surrender peacefully.
His sharp sense of smell and searching abilities also led to the seizure of 4500 pounds of marijuana, 129 kilos of cocaine, 62 pounds of methamphetamine, and 2 pounds of heroin.
Ozzy’s funeral costs exceed the department’s current budget, according to Gia Pacheco, the civilian association’s board secretary. His handler, Cpl. Sharpe, said he is unsure if the department will be able to purchase a replacement service dog.
The association, formed in 2002 in the midst of a budget crisis, works to bring in donations from businesses and the community to defray the costs of maintaining the K9 unit.
Montebello’s K9 unit normally consists of four dogs and their handlers. The dogs are trained to locate fleeing suspects, or hidden guns and narcotics.
According to Cpl. Al Martinez, who handles Carson, a Labrador whose job is to detect guns, the K9 unit’s medical expenses are especially heavy because of the dog’s active lifestyle.
“The police service dogs go through a lot when they’re in the field, a lot of jumping, a lot of activity, a lot of wear and tear,” said Martinez.
The public can still make tax-deductible donations through the civilian association by calling Pacheco at (323) 726-1082.