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Ava and Lily Goffstown twins Ava (left) and Lilly (right,) Burke pose with their stuffed K-9 companions. (TRAVIS R. MORIN/Union Leader Correspondent)

Hooksett police secure funding for K-9 unit

HOOKSETT — Less than two months after the Hooksett Police Department attained town council approval to launch a donation drive to fully fund a new K-9 unit, Chief Janet Bouchard announced that the department has secured enough money to fully fund the purchase, training, and at least a decade of upkeep for the dog that they intend to get sometime in mid-August.

Appearing at Wednesday night’s town council meeting to deliver an update on the progress of the K-9 unit and to ask the town to accept $6,670 donated from Hooksett citizens and businesses in the last few weeks, Bouchard reported a groundswell in local enthusiasm for the initiative.

“The residents and business owners have been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Bouchard to the Council.

Altogether, Bouchard reported that the department had raised approximately $20,000 from a combination of direct contributions, a GoFundMe page, and sales of T-shirts that commemorate the K-9 program.

Ava and Lily Burke, 7-year-old twins from Goffstown, donated $1,620 of that total. The twins were born prematurely and solicit donations for a different charity instead of gifts every year on their birthday.

“We give them a bunch of options each year for where they’d like to donate and this year they chose the town’s K-9 program,” said Matt Burke, who’s both the girls’ father and a sergeant with the Hooksett police.

In addition to donations, Bouchard announced that the department had just received notice that they were approved for a multi-thousand dollar grant from the Stanton Foundation, which works to promote initiatives that strengthen the bond between humans and dogs.

Bouchard informed the council that the initial grant payout would be $25,000, but that the Stanton Foundation would also reimburse the department for an additional $18,000 after the K-9 and designated handler Officer Jordan McCluskey complete standard training and narcotics training in late fall.

“We can now not only fund the K-9 that we have, but depending on what goes on over the years, we can probably fund our K-9 for almost 10 years with this grant,” said Bouchard. “We’re very excited.”

Bouchard said she hopes the K-9 will help to make Hooksett more appealing for new police officers.

“We want to become a destination town where officers come and they stay. Not come here and transfer somewhere else,” Bouchard said. “For me to compete with other agencies, we had to start offering new things for officers to do. We spoke to all of the officers and got their opinions on what they wanted, and the overwhelming answer was ‘we want a K-9.’”

She also cited occasions in the last few weeks when a K-9 unit would have been useful, including a May 25 incident involving a man wanted on stalking charges who was hiding from police under a bed at the Firebird Motel in Hooksett.

“We had warrants and we were searching for him and he wouldn’t come out,” said Bouchard. “We had to go in there and just look for him and that’s an officer safety issue. We use our training that we have, but that’s an example that stuck out in our heads. If you say ‘we’re sending in the dog’ that usually gets people to move pretty fast.”

Bouchard said that the department plans to continue to raise funds for the longterm cost of feeding and caring for the K-9.

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