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The Cost of Starting a K-9 Unit

Know the extent of expenses from the get-go.

February 01, 2003  |  by - Also by this author

According to the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), insufficient public funding is the number one reason canine programs fail. So be sure you know what your costs will be and that you can adequately meet them before starting out.

It can cost $20,000-$29,000 to start a K-9 unit, according to figures given by K-9 officers. And then you have to account for maintenance training and general living expenses for the dog, including food and vet care.

After initial training, maintenance training usually consists of either training at your own facility with equipment you purchase once for maybe $1,000 all together and use for about five years, or paying a nearby agency a nominal fee to train with them. Food is relatively inexpensive. You’ll probably need a 40-pound bag of kibble every five or six weeks. Vet bills can vary widely, however, from $400 on the low end to more than $1,000 a year. K-9s are in the line of fire with their trainers, and come in contact with the same hazards as human police officers. Depending on what you come across on the beat, your dog may need to be treated for walking on broken glass or being stabbed.

A dog is possibly the most important purchase for a K-9 unit. A single-purpose dog can cost $2,500–$4,000, without training, or very little. If you purchase a dog from a private vendor, they can be more expensive. A dog trained for dual purpose—for both patrol and narcotics, for example—can cost $8,000–$10,000.

Most K-9 officers and trainers suggest buying from a highly recommended private vendor who will provide the dog with some training and then having the K-9 handler go through most training with the dog. You can get discounts by going to training with local police departments that have their own training programs. Check out the possibilities in your area. Shorter training sessions might be available if your department can’t afford to pay for a full 10- or 12-week course, although the more complete training for handler and dog is always best.

A car can be a big expense, especially because if you don’t have extras lying around you might have to purchase a new one. It will have to be dedicated to your K-9 unit. Any car that you use for a K-9 will have to be converted. But you don’t have to do it all on your own with some plywood and bolts anymore. Readymade inserts available in different configurations and made specifically to fit your model of cruiser make conversion much easier. An insert for the back of a cruiser can cost $1,800, but it should last about five years. You can even use the same insert in a different model of car with the new adapter kits that are available. You can probably outfit a car with insert, temperature monitor, and door-popper for around $2,000.

Whatever your costs, make sure you take into account everything that you will need so neither you nor your administration is caught by surprise down the line.

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