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From left to right: Officer Jordan McCluskey, Chief Janet Bouchard, and Sergeant Michael Zappala. (Hooksett Police Department)

Hooksett police hope for return of K-9 unit

HOOKSETT — Police are hoping for the return this fall of a K-9 unit entirely paid for through private donations.

Citing the success of the K-9 unit the department last had nearly 10 years ago, Police Chief Janet Bouchard told town councilors last week that a K-9 program would be a force multiplier.

“A K-9 unit is going to be invaluable for the drug epidemic that we currently have,” said Bouchard. “Obviously we have a lot of drugs in the state, and a K-9 unit is an extra tool for establishing the probable cause needed for a search warrant.”

Also present last week was Sgt. Michael Zappala, who will oversee the department’s K-9 unit, and Officer Jordan McCluskey, who will serve as the dog’s handler.

Between the cost of the dog and all of the training and equipment, Zappala said that the program is expected to cost somewhere between $25,000 and $35,000.

While council approval was needed for the K-9 unit, the department’s stated goal is to fund the initial purchase of a dog and ongoing costs associated with feeding and caring for the dog with charitable contributions, a strategy that Merrimack, Plaistow, and other Granite State communities have successfully used.

In the event they are unable to raise the necessary funds, Bouchard said she plans to seek approval from the town council to reallocate funds from the department’s budget.

To date, the police department has taken in a number of private contributions for the K-9 unit and offers to donate food and veterinary care for the dog. The police department also plans to work with the Hooksett Police Association on an aggressive fundraising effort later this summer.

Zappala is currently in the process of determining what breed of dog the department will bring on, with the choice narrowed down to a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois.

McCluskey and the dog will undergo 14 weeks of training with the Boston Police Department’s K-9 Training Unit.

After the training, the new partners will spend four months together in on the road training and preparation, followed by a special course geared toward handling situations that involve narcotics.

Although McCluskey has never before worked alongside a K-9 partner, Zappala said McCluskey stood head and shoulders above the other applicants for the position.

“Officer McCluskey is very smart, professional, personable, and calm. He can get along with anybody,” said Zappala. “He gets police work, and he’s very passionate about it.”

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