COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Several Georgia agencies could get a big boost from a national grant dedicated to K-9s. Aftermath Services, a biohazard company based in Illinois, is offering the $25,000 grant to whichever agency can amass the most votes online.
Any agency with a law enforcement or community-based K-9 that provides a real service to the community is eligible. The grant evolved from being a local initiative in Illinois to a national grant process. Aftermath transitioned the grant to be more community oriented, which resulted in the public getting to vote for which agency receives the prize.
"These dogs are such great service animals for the community," Aftermath's Tina Bao said. "Why don’t we reward, honor, respect and highlight those organizations?”
Cobb County Police Department is one of the agencies eligible for the grant. The department's K-9 unit just lost Axle, a 9-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix that spent most of his life serving the department. Axle died Oct. 6 due to an undetectable rare form of cancer.
Lt. Lester Maddox with the Cobb County Police Department called K-9s an important aspect of what they do every day.
"They’re part of us, I guess is the biggest thing," Maddox said. "They’re part of our family, not only here but at home. We’ve done 689 usages just this year alone, seized over $1 million in narcotics in street value. The units provide support to all the special teams, SWAT teams, bomb squad, any other units that may need assistance. They look for suspects that have fled from the police and then they look for narcotics hidden in vehicles and other areas. They can detect those where we couldn’t normally find them.”
Cobb County's K-9s usually come from Europe and undergo training for 16 weeks. New K-9s cost about $14,000, according to Maddox. He said if the department were to win the grant money, a replacement for Axle would be a priority purchase.
“In the past, we’ve used grant money for first aid kits for all the dogs, Narcan for all the dogs," Maddox said. "They can do work that would take many officers to do.”
Aftermath hopes that with all the talk of community policing, the idea can be a two-way street. This vote-based grant is not just a way for police to interact with the community but for the community to engage with police and other agencies.
"It’s a deep connection to the community, a unique connection to the community to the dogs that people just come up and talk to us," Maddox said. "Normally, you wouldn’t walk up to a normal officer and just start talking. When they see you have a K-9 patch, they want to tell you about their dog and ask you about your dog.”
The Douglas County Coroner's Office, Cleveland, Georgia Police Department, Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, Gilmer County Sheriff's Office and Lumpkin County Sheriff's Office are also eligible for the grant.
To cast a vote, click here. Anyone can vote once a day. Voting ends October 26.