Somerset could have new K-9 officer on patrol by June

By ERIC KIETA | Posted: Monday, April 27, 2015 10:48 pm

One day after community members paid their final respects to the Somerset Borough PoliceSomerset K-9 Patch
Department's late K-9 Officer Arny, officials have announced that a new dog may soon be joining the force.

At a borough council meeting Monday, Mayor Scott Walker and Somerset Police Chief Randy Cox made the announcement that a K-9 originally from The Netherlands and presently located in West Virginia is being eyed for the department.  "We have been successful in locating a K-9 that we would like to take a look at," Walker told the council. 

The council members moved Monday to allow the department to look into if the dog will be a good fit for Somerset. Arny began his career with the department in 2006. In January Cox announced that Arny was diagnosed with a an aggressive form of cancer and was retired from the force. Arny then lived out the remainder of his days at home with his handler, Officer Brian Harbart. He died March 16 at Animal Medical Center in Somerset. On Sunday a memorial service for Arny was held at the Somerset Area High School.  "The love and respect that the community had for Arny showed us a K-9 can be an invaluable asset to the community," Walker said.

The potential K-9, a 2-year-old male Belgian Malinois, was chosen by the department's master trainer, William Sombo, because it shares a work ethic similar to Arny, Cox said.  "(Sombo) matches the talents of the dog for what we are looking for and the skill of the handler," he said. Harbart would be the handler for the new K-9. Cox said Harbart and Sombo will travel to West Virginia to assess the dog May 8. Cox said the only request Harbart had when the department began looking for a new K-9 is that it would not be a German Shepherd — Arny's breed. "It would just be too much of an emotional reminder of Arny for him," Cox said.

If the K-9 is a fit for the department and Harbart, The EADS Group of Somerset will donate up to $10,000 for the purchase of the dog and its training. Cox estimated the price for acquiring and training the dog to be between $8,000 and $9,000.  EADS Vice President and borough engineer Tom Reilly said he and his company made the decision to donate the money because of the connection they feel with the borough.  "We've been the borough engineer for decades," Reilly said. "We have overly good working relationships with the borough council and the staff. Our office is located in the borough. We have many employees who have kids who attend school in the borough."

Walker said the new dog will serve many roles on the force.  "We intend to go far beyond just drugs," he said, citing the K-9 will be trained for search and rescue missions, and the apprehension of suspects.  Council President Ruby Miller asked if the potential dog will be friendly She added that Arny didn't seem to like women. Cox said the dog seems to be much more open to new or unfamiliar people than Arny had been. "You might even open up the Daily American and see the dog posing with a preschool this time," he said with a laugh, "which could never happen before."  If the dog is a proper fit it will be named Ajay. The name is based on what the Harbart's called Arny when he would act up, Cox said.  He said the dog could begin training in mid-May if he is a good fit.  "By June we could have another K-9 swearing in," he said.