Catasauqua looking to continue K-9 unit
When the Catasauqua Police Department inaugurated its K-9 service in 2009, no one predicted what an asset it was for the borough.
“I was pushing for the K-9 because it is what I want to do,” Officer John Wiseman told The Press. “I was lucky that I was on a police force that looked favorably on having a K-9.”
Wiseman heads the K-9 unit. Seven years of service is a long time for Jack, the borough’s K-9, who is retiring at the end of the year.
“We started a campaign to raise funds to get another dog,” Wiseman said. A properly trained K-9 runs about $14,000.
Jack is a Belgian Malinois and has served admirably. Wiseman is looking for a Dutch shepherd for the borough.
“Many times we need to go overseas to get a dog properly trained, but good trainers are here in America and they are breeding some great dogs,” he said.
For the borough, Jack’s specialty is tracking drugs and providing protection.
“We practice track and bite, but we never had to use it,” Wiseman said.
In the stories he recounts, Wiseman emphasizes that having Jack in the car is enough to quell a disturbance.
“We had an incident at [the Catasauqua Park & Playground] where a bunch of teens were ready for a brawl. Just having Jack barking in the car was enough to have them scatter,” he said.
Police Chief Douglas Kish commented on Jack’s value.
“It’s like having another police officer, and he will protect Officer Wiseman,” he said.
Wiseman and Jack have worked with other police departments in the Lehigh Valley and in New Jersey. Jack seized 22.2 pounds of cocaine in his biggest drug bust.
“We use him a lot on house searches,” Wiseman said. “Someone calls in that they arrived home and the door was open. We send Jack in to search. When he clears the house, we go in.”
The borough’s K-9 unit has many active supporters.
“A lot of local businesses support us with funds so we can provide food and care,” he said. Coupe and Sons on Race Street is a continuing supporter. HanoverView Animal Hospital takes good care of Jack.
“There are a lot of local volunteers who make the program possible,” Wiseman said. Hounds On Working Leashes (HOWL) helped fund Jack’s service vest and collar.
“HOWL supports all the police canine operations in the Valley,” Kish said. “Living Things (Quality Pets and Supplies) in Orefield helps us out, too.”
Wiseman does demos for Living Things and other nonprofits in the Valley.
“It’s partly awareness on what K-9s can do,” he said. “We talk to Explorer Posts and we did a demo at the Y. We have one scheduled at the library.”
Part of Jack’s twice-a-month maintenance training includes searches in the Catasauqua Middle School.
“We do our practice when school is not in session, but we are prepared in case we need to send him in,” Wiseman said. Jack can search a school building twice as fast as an officer, he says.
Wiseman is confident that borough residents support the K-9 unit.
“I often talk with residents who see us on patrol. They like to talk about what we do and get a chance to see Jack,” he said.
When Jack receives his golden bone and retires, he will reside with Wiseman.
“I think the hardest thing for Jack is going to be not going to work,” he said. “He loves to get going. As soon as I put on my uniform, he is going to get his leash.”
The borough has several programs to continue the unit.
“We have T-shirts available for sale. You can order your size,” Wiseman said. The goal is to sell 500 shirts at $10 each. In the first two weeks, 50 shirts are gone.
“They are available at the borough and we will have some at the flea market sale,” he said.
Mayor Barbara Schlegel sponsors a flea market sale at random times during the spring and summer. The next event is June 4.
“We want to continue these events,” she said. “They bring in a little money and help support the program.”