Due to a lack of university funding, Mercyhurst Police and Safety have turned to the public for donations to pay for Rico, the school’s K-9 unit.
Mercyhurst Police and Safety is asking for public donations to support Rico’s needs.
Rico’s veterinary fees, upkeep on equipment and the training for Corporal Brandon Miller, Rico’s handler cost the department thousands each year.
“We receive no funding at all from the university. That is important for the public to know. I don’t want them to think that the school is funding us and that we are looking for funding on top of that,” Police and Safety Chief Robert Kuhn said.
These funds are essential to the program, as Police and Safety relies on public generosity to maintain and finance the K-9 program.
“That’s how we keep this program running: off of donations,” Miller said.
Originally, the university was going to provide funding for Rico. Kuhn said that was when the school began watching its finances and they had to be careful on expenditures.
“[President Tom Gamble] was going to do the initial funding to get the dog trained at the academy and then he changed his mind,” said Kuhn. “It is always an uphill battle to try and be progressive with the police department on campus. [Gamble] told me if I could get the funding to go ahead and do it.”
Senator Sean Wiley donated the initial funds to purchase Rico and started the private fund for him.
“Unfortunately in our budget, it is very expensive to maintain a full K-9 unit let alone one dog,” Kuhn said.
Rico has become a regional asset since his arrival at Mercyhurst.
Rico is not only trained in detecting explosive devices, but can also detect weapons and ammunition, as well as plastic explosives. The Erie City Police Department no longer has a K-9 unit, which keeps Rico in high demand, Kuhn said.
In February, Rico was called out to Penn State Behrend because of a bomb threat, Kuhn said.
“If someone went missing, he has the capabilities to track him down. There is a lot he doesn’t do daily, however if the need arose he’s there for it,” Miller said.
On campus, Rico is Corporal Miller’s partner and is part of the daily patrols around Mercyhurst’s campus.
“He’s always on patrol with me. I’m sure you hear him barking like crazy. Pretty much he safeguards everything with me,” Miller said.
Recently, donations were made allowing police and safety to obtain a Kevlar vest for Rico. The vest, which is custom-made, is bullet, stab and fireproof. While the need for such a vest seems unwarranted, protecting Rico is a number one priority.
“They [K-9 units] are worth their weight in gold,” said Kuhn. “I was always a believer in dogs. I always kept that K-9 unit going.”
When Rico is not on duty, he is at home with Miller acting like any other dog.
“He goes right in and jumps on the couch. He thinks he’s a lap dog, always laying on me,” said Miller, “but when it’s time for work he has a good switch.”