Sheriff Jimmy Shinn said he has been thinking about adding a K-9 to the department for about a year, noting the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department has the only one K-9 available to law enforcement agencies in Northeast Missouri.

Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Shinn says it’s the right time to add a K-9 officer to the department, and community partners have pledged more than $3,000 so far.

Shinn said he has been thinking about adding a K-9 to the department for about a year, noting the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department has the only one K-9 available to law enforcement agencies in Northeast Missouri. He said that a new K-9 for the department would benefit area law enforcement agencies and communities, through a project that will cost about $19,600 for purchasing the dog and training. And Shinn soon found a deputy who would be an ideal partner for the forthcoming member of the force.

He said Deputy Shane Kirtlink will be the K-9’s full-time partner, and he and all of the members of his family are prepared for the full-time addition to their household. Department officials plan to choose a dog from a well-recommended kennel in Pennsylvania at the end of December, followed by eight to 10 weeks of training for Kirtlink and the dog beginning in January at the Boone County K-9 Training Center in Columbia.

“Of course, that’s when the bond will start with the officer and the K-9,” Shinn said. “And this dog will go home with the officer. It will be the officer’s partner 24/7.”

Shinn said he spoke with Kirtlink several times to ensure that he and his family were ready for that level of dedication. He commended Kirtlink for removing more than 100 pounds of narcotics from the highways during his enforcement efforts over the past year — the K-9 will primarily assist with narcotics investigations, including searches within the Marion County Jail to stop contraband from reaching inmates.

Shinn said the dog will be a dual-purpose K-9, which means it can search and track — it will able to find illegal drugs during a traffic stop, for example — and will also be able to locate a lost child or senior citizen, coupled with the ability to track a fugitive to keep the officer safer during a pursuit.

Shinn mailed out letters Wednesday, Oct. 18 to between 125 and 150 community partners, seeking donations toward the project. The purchase of a certified dog with a complete life history costs $7,500, and the dog is expected to have a service lifeline of six to eight years, Shinn said. Training with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department will cost $3,600, and expenses food and lodging for Kirtlink will total about $3,500.

The community donation goal is for the $19,600 project cost, and Shinn said he can also use funds from the Sheriff’s Fund that contains money from deputies serving papers each day. The project cost doesn’t account for outfitting a patrol vehicle with special equipment, Shinn said, which includes a special in-vehicle kennel with food and water for the K-9 and a belt with a special button for Kirtlink that instantly pops the cruiser’s rear doors open, signaling the K-9 to come to his rescue if needed.

Community members interested in contributing to the project can send a check made out to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Project. He stressed a new K-9 will offer benefits that extend beyond boosting safety and enforcement efforts for the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and surrounding community agencies — Shinn plans to bring the K-9 to local schools, nursing homes and other locations for community outreach efforts.

“I don’t take the decision lightly, because I understand the cost associated with it,” Shinn said. “It’s an extremely large amount of money to be going to a project, but I also firmly believe it’s going to be beneficial for not only us, but for area departments and for the community as a whole.”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com