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Gage County may put its drug dog back to work

July 21, 2019

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — The Gage County Sheriff’s Office may resurrect its K-9 program and put its drug dog back to work.

The officer who’d handled the 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, Buster, announced last month that he was leaving the department. The county Board of Supervisors voted to let Buster’s handler, Coltin Bebensee, buy the dog for $250 — a value largely based on predictions that Buster wouldn’t be able to perform adequately under a different handler.

The Beatrice Daily Sun reported that the board later rescinded that decision, saying Buster likely had a higher value. Also, some donors who’d helped acquire the dog and equipment and supported his training had expressed disappointment that their donations were going to waste if the dog were to stop working in Gage County.

Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson told the board Monday that Buster had been evaluated by trainers in Omaha last week and appeared to able to work with a different handler.

“I’m here to tell you that I was taken aback by Buster, and so were the instructors,” Gustafson said. “They said they were pleasantly surprised with his performance for being a little rusty.”

The trainers said Buster had good obedience qualities and estimated that he had around four years of service life left for a law enforcement agency. He’s worth at least $4,000, they said.

Gustafson is talking to one of his deputies about taking over Buster’s care and handling.

“We’re trying to work out details and (the deputy) might go back to Omaha with him . and get a feel of the training,” the sheriff said.

The debate over Buster’s future isn’t about his former handler keeping the dog, Gustafson said, but rather it’s about being responsible with county property.

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Information from: Beatrice Sun, http://www.beatricedailysun.com

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