WILKES-BARRE — Two city police dogs off the streets for a few months appear to be headed back to work soon.
The city intends to reactivate them, even without the written assurances it requested about the K9 units, the mayor said Wednesday.
Mayor Tony George said the city is assuming Chase and Skoty, both Belgian Malinois that have undergone evaluations, are ready for duty. However, he did not provide a date for their return.
George said Police Chief Marcella Lendacky is in the process of contacting officers Joseph Homza and Daniel Roper who work with the dogs.
“She’s calling them in,” George said.
A message left with the chief was not returned.
The developments came as a surprise to the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents the K9 officers.
“It’s news to us,” said Sgt. Phil Myers, PBA president.
In a post on its Facebook page Monday, the PBA asked about the status of the K9 units.
The dogs, purchased with fundraising proceeds and donations, joined the department in 2016 with much fanfare. But their duty has been limited due to questions about the training for the animals and the officers.
Chase bit three people, leading to one lawsuit and raising public safety concerns for the mayor who ordered the animal be taken out of service in January. That same month Skoty teamed with a new officer as a result of a settlement agreement with the PBA.
The city sent the dogs to be evaluated by a third-party trainer and was told they were cleared to return to duty. But the mayor wanted it in writing. He said city attorney Tim Henry sent a letter a few weeks ago that stated, “if we don’t hear from you, we’re going to assume it’s OK” to put the dogs back in service.
“He hasn’t received anything back,” the mayor said.
Still unresolved is the issue of training the dogs. They had been going to the North East Police K-9 Academy in Wilkes-Barre Township, but the owner Paul Price resigned as their trainer because the city had not permitted the dogs and officers to travel to out-of-town sessions.
The mayor said Lendacky has to find a new trainer. “The closest is in Harrisburg,” he said.
But Sgt. Myers disagreed. “That’s not the closest. That’s the closest willing to work with the administration,” he said.
Myers added he found it interesting the mayor had made an issue that training sessions were previously held in Lancaster, yet now he’s considering a trainer in Harrisburg.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.