Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge hopes to have a new K-9 drug dog by the end of the year. Irko, the nine-year-old Belgian Malinois who served the CPD for seven years, died in late August.
“Irko contributed a lot to our department,” said Etheridge. “He was very important to our drug seizure program.”
The chief said Irko became sick in mid-August and was diagnosed with “a heart issue” by a veterinarian, who recommended that Irko be put down. An official ceremony was held for the dog after his death.
“I want to publicly thank Ponders Funeral Home, Mountain View Pet Crematory and RTK Veterinary Clinic for their help with Irko,” Etheridge said. “I can’t thank them enough for what they did.”
Irko had been paired with trained K-9 officer Jonathan Sosebee.
“Irko’s death was very hard on Jonathan and his whole family,” said Etheridge. “Jonathan and Irko were together almost all the time. They were together at work and Irko went home with him.” Irko was invaluable to the department’s anti-drug efforts, Etheridge said. When investigating officers were suspicious of the possible presence of drugs, the call went out to Irko.
The dog would be brought to the scene of a search and put to work. “He was extremely effective,” said Etheridge. “We could bring him to a traffic stop and if there were drugs there, he found them.”
Etheridge said Irko’s main contribution was “helping keep narcotics off the street,” but the dog’s success often paid off financially for the CPD as well. Drug arrests can lead to confiscation of property tied to the drug business; the confiscated property, which could include a vehicle or cash, can be forfeited to the police department. With a judge’s OK, the department often sells the confiscated property and is allowed to keep a portion of the revenue.
The Chatsworth City Council on Tuesday (Sept. 8) voted unanimously to allow Etheridge to purchase a new drug dog.
The chief said the average price of such an animal is $16,000 to $23,000 but Irko was purchased for about $11,000 and he hopes to find a similar value.
“We’re going to be financially responsible,” he said.
Etheridge said that in the mean time, the Murray County Sheriff’s Department, which has its own drug dogs, is helping out the city.