The K9 unit has been deployed 200 times this year to assist Westlake and the neighboring cities for everything from narcotics searches to community events.

Being a police officer can be tough work, especially if you have four legs, a fur coat and big wide ears. That’s why the Westlake Police Department will be holding a fundraiser for its K9 unit on Saturday at Dave & Buster’s in Westlake.

The fundraiser, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Westlake, aims to raise $30,000. Half of that will be used to buy a new dog for the unit in the spring. The rest will be used to train the new officer, outfit a police vehicle with canine equipment and provide support .

The need for a new dog came from a shift in work hours that will change from three eight-hour shifts to two 12-hour shifts expected to occur Jan 1.Three dogs work at the city’s police department now, but under the new shift schedule, a dog won’t always be available to work, according to Officer Rick Dudas, who organized the event.

“It’s nice having the dogs here so we can respond immediately if they’re needed,” said Dudas, who is also training to become a dog handler for the department. “We’ve been busy. We’ve been making a lot of felony drug arrests and they help with that.”

The K9 unit plays a pivotal role for the department. This year alone, the unit has been deployed nearly 200 times and helped with seven arrests. Each dog is trained to help officers during narcotics searches, tracking efforts and apprehension of suspects.

“Ohio has been hit by the opioid epidemic harder than most states in the country, especially in Cuyahoga County,” Dudas said. “Dogs are an awesome tool to help us fight drug usage in the county, just for their sense of smell alone and to detect it to help us arrest the guys that are selling it.”

The fundraiser will feature a touch-a-truck like event that will let community members see the various vehicles the police department uses, including its mobile command station. The K9 unit will also attend.

The fundraiser will have a raffle with prizes that include a year of free car washes and animal baskets for dogs.The event will also provide a chance to meet and get acquainted with the police force.

“Our K9 unit is pretty involved with the community,” Dudas said. “We show them the dog and show them the car and give them a demo on what they can do. We want to get people used to seeing the police as someone they can go to for help instead of being afraid of them. I’m just a guy. I just wear a blue shirt and blue pants a couple times a day. We’re here to help.”

Contact this reporter at akamczyc@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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