Newtown, CT — Newtown’s newest K-9 Officer ‘Saint Michael’, a two-year-old German Shepherd Dog, was sworn in today during a ceremony to pay tribute to the Newtown Police Department’s recently deceased K-9 officer ‘Baro’ at the Newtown Municipal Center. The new police dog’s purchase and training was made possible by $14,250 in donations and grants from the American Kennel Club community of non-profit affiliates AKC Reunite and the AKC Humane Fund; AKC member clubs, Trap Falls Kennel Club, Newtown Kennel Club, and Farmington Kennel Club, as well as delegates and local residents.
AKC Delegate to the Trap Falls Kennel Club Chris Sweetwood and Newtown Officer Matt Hayes of the K-9 Unit served together in Iraq. The two had not seen each other in nearly a decade when a chance meeting at a dog event in August 2012 discovered a shared passion for dogs and for serving the community.
“I learned that most local police departments have limited funding and a K-9 unit is usually not part of that funding,” Sweetwood said. “In an effort to help out, Trap Falls Kennel Club made a $500 donation last fall to the Newtown Police K-9 Unit to provide financial assistance. That was just the beginning.”
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, which stretched Newtown’s resources, and the unexpected early retirement and passing of Baro in June, Newtown was faced with not having a working police dog among its ranks. Baro, who directly responded to Sandy Hook, was missed greatly by law enforcement and the community.
“I felt that there had to be a way to assist our local first responders,” Sweetwood said. “Since most local department K-9’s are cross trained in search and rescue, our club assisted the Newtown police department with an application for an AKC Reunite search and rescue grant. I then reached out to the AKC community to raise additional funds to help purchase a new working dog for the Newtown community. It was the right thing to do.”
Today’s ceremony began with Baro’s Last Ride, a K-9 Patrol vehicle procession led by Newtown K-9 handler Officer Felicia Figol and Hayes, and escorted by more than 30 K-9 units from around the state. With Baro’s ashes and the newly acquired Saint Michael in Newtown’s K-9 patrol vehicle, the procession left Edmund Town Hall and slowly made its way down historic Main Street past police headquarters, where Baro proudly served for eight years, on its way to the Newtown Municipal Center. The Newtown Honor Guard was part of the ceremony, which included a moment of silence, personal remembrances and the final roll call for Baro. Chief of Police Michael Kehoe then introduced speakers from the AKC community, followed by the swearing in by the town clerk of Saint Michael, the newest K-9 officer of the Newtown Police Department.
“Most AKC Reunite Canine Support and Relief Fund grants are provided for volunteer search and rescue teams across the country, but this grant of $5,000 provided a unique opportunity to help Newtown have a new K-9 officer capable of providing law enforcement services, including searching for missing people,” said AKC Reunite CEO Tom Sharp.
“I don’t have enough words to thank the AKC and its affiliates for their generous donations on behalf of the Police Department’s Canine Program. Once we recognized the need to sustain our canine program for the long term, many have stepped forward to make this day a success. From the AKC, Newtown Police staff members, other donors and the community at large, they have made the transition to a new canine a reality. Our previous canine Baro was beloved by all and certainly we will miss him and the faithful dedicated service he gave each day to our community,” said Newtown Chief of Police Michael Kehoe.