Although $7,000 may sound expensive for a German Shepherd puppy, it's not too bad of a price if you ask Pittsburgh Police Sergeant Chris Micknowski.
"It's all about genetics," the bureau's canine trainer told City Council on Wednesday, before the body approved $28,000 for four new police dogs. "It's a superior product. These dogs are bred in Europe for this kind of work."
From the farms and commercial breeding facilities of the Old World, these dogs are shipped to a kennel in Mercer County, where they're raised until about 15 or 16 months of age. That's when the Pittsburgh police, and Micknowski, buy them for $7,000 apiece. From there, the young dogs enroll in the canine version of the city's police academy before serving for a career usually spans five to seven years.
"We're looking for a dog that has the natural drives and traits -- pretty much untrained," said Micknowski. "You could buy that $7,000 dog that we're talking about, but you could also buy the $15,000 to $25,000 dog that's fully trained. We prefer not to do that. We prefer to do a lot of our things in-house."
In fact, Pittsburgh has just one of three canine training facilities in the state, said Micknowski. It's all part of the rich history of Pittsburgh's K-9 unit, which dates back to 1958.
The four new dogs replace an equal number of outgoing canine officers. A pair of them had reached retirement age; the other two were essentially fired.
Today, Pittsburgh's 22 police dogs are spread fairly evenly throughout the city's six police zones. They're used mostly for patrol work -- that is, sniffing out criminals or other people -- although they're also deployed to pick up the scents of guns, ammunition, explosives, and other contraband.