Washington Twp. police dogs getting new home

Washington Twp. Police Chief Rafael Muniz (left), Lt. Pat Gurcsik (middle) and Cpl. George Hilbert, with Aron, a German shepherd, at the site of the new police dog kennel.
Washington Twp. Police Chief Rafael Muniz (left), Lt. Pat Gurcsik (middle) and Cpl. George Hilbert, with Aron, a German shepherd, at the site of the new police dog kennel. (COURTNEY MARABELLA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 23, 2014

WASHINGTON TWP. Photos of the pups are scattered about the Washington Township Police Department headquarters - with names like Goldy and Rex.

In Gloucester County's most populous municipality, K9s have become a community staple since the division was formally established in 2006, following prior stints.

One of the department's five K9s, Rex, trained in explosives, helped secure the Super Bowl in East Rutherford. Last month, Aron helped nab a jewelry burglar in the township.

But with no appropriated tax dollars in the department's $8 million budget, the division has continued to rely on grants and donations to stay afloat. In recent days, the department has broken ground in a bricks-and-mortar project attesting to that support.

A kennel specifically for the K9s is being constructed in the parking lot of the department's headquarters on McClure Drive. And, police say, businesses throughout the community are chipping in - from donated building plans to cinderblocks.

For example: Horizon Services donated heat and air conditioning systems. Ray Angelini Inc., an electrical contracting and engineering firm in Sewell, is providing electrical work. Two workers with Aurand Masonry began to lay the footing for the 30-foot by 23-foot building Thursday afternoon.

In addition to donated materials and labor, police estimate the project will cost about $20,000. They've raised about $14,000, and are continuing efforts to raise money - with a fund-raiser April 8 at McDonald's on Delsea Drive.

The building, which officials hope will be complete by summer, will have pens for four dogs, each attached with outdoor runs. Police call it a state-of-the-art facility, featuring a dehumidifier and a washing station.

"This has always been a dream since we started the program," Chief Rafael Muniz said. "It's been something that we've wanted to do, but couldn't afford it."

Muniz said the building would help alleviate the dilemma presented when officers need to go inside headquarters, leaving dogs in the car and engines running. Officers can also use the space during vacation.

Lt. Pat Gurcsik, who oversees the division, called the dogs a "huge investment," saying the kennel would give handlers a certain feeling of comfort when they need to fulfill other duties.

Muniz recalled his first K9, a black lab, Cole. In 1996, shortly after Muniz graduated from the police academy, Cole helped Glassboro police locate a stash of cocaine inside a couch and marijuana inside a car, the chief remembered.

"That's what our dogs do," he said proudly.

Cpl. George Hilbert said of Aron, his German shepherd partner: "He's all business."

The dogs help complement the officer staff, which decreased from about 89 to 72 since 2006, Muniz noted, citing tight budgets. In 2013, the K9s completed nearly 180 searches of buildings, homes, cars, and schools.

The building is only the latest in the community's coming together to support the division. A local pet store, Pet Place, provides the food. Donations have helped the department purchase dogs, which can cost about $7,000, Muniz said, and also help provide health care - about $8,000 annually for the five dogs.

Al Frattali, a former councilman and ironworkers union administrator who helped construct a girl's softball building at Washington Lake Park, organized local labor to build the kennel. His daughter, Lisa, is a detective with the department.

"Everybody seems to want to be involved," he said. "Everybody stepped up."




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