K-9 "Finn" has tracked his last criminal and is on the verge of becoming somebody's family pet.
The 6-year-old police dog suffered a parasite infection in his hip about a year ago and his muscles have yet to regain their full strength.
“He’s not going to ever fully recover to the point to be able to do the job of a K-9 police dog,” Sheriff Gary Maha told the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
Maha is asking the County Legislature to pass a resolution allowing the Sheriff's Department to donate "Finn" to a person in the community, and then accept -- as a gift from the Niagara Falls PD -- a K-9 about the same age.
Deputy Brian Thompson said he will be sorry to see "Finn" go, but with another police dog about to join his household, there just won't be room for "Finn."
"It's heartbreaking to me," Thompson said.
The new dog, whom Thompson already knows, will be the last K-9 Thompson will work with professionally. After 19 years, going back to his time in the Army, Thompson is stepping aside as a K-9 handler. The Sheriff's Office is already starting the process of finding a new handler.
The new handler will get a "green" dog, at a cost of $6,200 to $6,500, plus the cost of at least 16 weeks of training.
The Niagara Falls dog is available because its current handler was involved in a shooting and has had trouble returning to work. The dog will be donated to Genesee County.
Thompson said the expectation is that the dog will have two or three years of working life left before retirement. Thompson will continue on as a K-9 handler so long as that dog is able to work.
Meanwhile, Thompson continues to work with K-9 "Jay," whom Thompson said is "the best narcotics dog I've ever worked with."
"Jay" is 13 years old, however, and is no longer physically able to handle chasing suspects or tracking criminals.
"Finn" was only on the job for six months when he was out on a detail assisting Niagara Regional Police Services in Canada.
Thompson had to take him into a wooded area, and it turned out the area was full of ticks. The ticks were treated and the dog seemed fine at first, but parasites apparently weakened the muscles in his hip.
Over the next couple of months, he developed muscle tears while working and training. On one job, it became apparent that "Finn" was in a good deal of pain. He's been out of service for nearly a year.
A friend of County Attorney Charles Zambito raises purebred German shepherds and is interested in taking in Finn, but first the woman needs to ensure "Finn" and her other dogs will get along.
If that person accepts "Finn," Zambito will need to draft a contract relieving the county of any liability.
Both Maha and Thompson, however, said "Finn" would make an excellent family pet.
"He’s not a violent dog," Maha said. "He’s a very friendly dog."
"Finn" just isn't aggressive at all, said Thompson.
"Even in his job, he doesn’t like the aggression part of it," Thompson said. "It’s just not in him. We tried putting it in him with different training and different work, but it’s just not part of his personality. He’s not the least bit interested in harming anybody."