ROCKPORT, Texas — Canines are an important tool for first responders, and they mean a lot to the Aransas Co. Sheriff's Office (ACSO).
Now, it is calling on the community to help bring a new K9 onto the team.
Between Hurricane Harvey, recent tax cuts and the ongoing pandemic, the Sheriff's Office's budget is tight.
Hiring on a new K9 Deputy could cost the Sheriff's Office as much as $20,000.
"They're absolutely worth every penny," Tate said. "It's a long term investment."
The 100 Club of Aransas County, an organization that provides resources to law enforcement, has set up a K9 Fund and is taking donations to help.
"The partnership between a handler and a dog, it’s close. It’s tight," said Sherriff Bill Mills. "It’s a security issue for them, and it’s a tool in their tool box that most other deputies don’t have."
"Over the years we've used them in multiple disciplines. It’s been a relief to us and it’s served us well."
The Aransas County Sheriff's Office recently lost one of their own, K9 Deputy Kilo -- a two-year-old German Shepherd.
He died unexpectedly two weeks ago from what they believe may have been an undetected heart issue.
His handler, Investigator Stephen Nanny, said Kilo was like family to him because of the long hours they spend together at home and at work.
“We were just starting to come together as a team," Nanny said. "He had already found illegal narcotics and helped other agencies. They become like a family member. We spend more time with the K9 then we do our own family."
The Sheriff's Office only other K9 is an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois named Urso. He is set to retire soon.
K9 Deputy Urso is Sgt. Tyler Tate's partner.
“They’re our better halves when we’re out working," he said.
They serve a lot of purposes on the force.
“We use them for everything," Tate said. "They’re not just for finding drugs, going out and putting people in jail. We use them for tracking purposes. They're great for PR purposes. We use them for dispatch purposes. This dog can walk into our dispatch and everybody smiles."
And of course, the dogs are trained to protect their handlers.
“Just knowing somebody’s always got your back. It doesn’t matter how far back-up is." Nanny said. "The dogs are there to protect us.“