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Granite Shoals K-9 program’s paws hit the ground with $25K donation

Granite Shoals Police Chief John Ortis with Detective Andrew Kos

Granite Shoals Police Chief John Ortis announced the beginning of the city’s first K-9 officer program alongside soon-to-be K-9 handler Detective Andrew Kos during a City Council meeting on May 23. Pictured on the screen is Zoe, the incoming K-9. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Granite Shoals Police Department received a $25,000 donation to kickstart its K-9 officer program during the City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, May 23. The department can now purchase and care for a pre-trained dog and its human partner for narcotics enforcement and search-and-rescue operations.

The donation came from Dr. César DePaço and wife Deanna Padovani-DePaço of New Jersey, who are known for making philanthropic contributions to law enforcement, especially in support of K-9 programs. Granite Shoals Mayor Kiel Arnone, who is originally from New Jersey, reached out to contacts in the Garden State to facilitate the funding.

“I think it’s a great, positive thing for our community,” Arnone told a packed council chamber. 

Granite Shoals Police Department K-9 Zoe
Two-year-old Belgian Malinois Zoe is undergoing training at Pacesetter K9 in Liberty Hill. When done, she will work with Granite Shoals Police Department Detective Andrew Kos in sniffing out narcotics and finding missing persons. Photo courtesy of Kiel Arnone

Detective Andrew Kos will be the human half of the new unit. Kos pitched the idea of a K-9 program to Chief John Ortis about a month before Tuesday night’s meeting, but prior funding concerns made it difficult to move forward.

When Arnone heard about the financial hangup, he reached out to DePaço. After a few days of back-and-forth between Arnone, DePaço, Ortis, and Kos, a donation was secured.

The department has already chosen Zoe, a Belgian Malinois, who is currently undergoing training at Pacesetter K9 in Liberty Hill. According to Ortis, she will cost $14,000. The substantial sum is due to the immense amount of training she will undergo prior to joining the department. Zoe will be specifically trained to sniff out narcotics and perform tracking in search-and-rescue operations. 

Ortis told DailyTrib.com that a city the size of Granite Shoals typically does not have the means to support a K-9 unit, and he hit that same point home during Tuesday’s council meeting.

“The city of Granite Shoals did not have the budget to outfit us with a K-9 dog for patrol operations,” he told the council. 

The cost doesn’t stop at the dog’s purchase. The $25,000 donation will also cover Kos’ training as a K-9 handler, outfitting his vehicle for K-9 work and paying for dog food and veterinary care.

Granite Shoals Police Department Detective Andrew Kos
Granite Shoals Police Department Detective Andrew Kos poses for a photo with emotional support dogs Montana and Tundra. Kos was shot on duty in February, and his personal dogs became his support animals during recovery. He told DailyTrib.com that it has been his longtime dream to become a K-9 handler. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Kos will soon undergo extensive training to work alongside Zoe in the field. He is a recent addition to GSPD, coming from the Horseshoe Bay Police Department, and spent 30 years as an officer and detective for the Austin Police Department. Kos was shot on duty in February while working for the Horseshoe Bay department. His two dogs, Tundra and Montana, became emotional support animals after the shooting and are now part of the GSPD family.

“I’m super excited,” Kos told DailyTrib.com. “This is, like, a lifelong dream to be a K-9 handler.”

Kos and Zoe will begin their tandem training on July 17 and should be on duty by Aug. 6.

dakota@thepicayune.com