Twin Lakes sells K9 Rex to former handler

The Twin Lakes Village Board on Monday agreed to sell the Twin Lakes Police Department’s K9 officer, Rex, to the handler who had worked with the dog since 2017, but is now leaving the department.

Former TLPD Officer Joe Patla and K9 Rex on their first official day on the job. /Earlene Frederick photo

The vote at a special board meeting was 4-3, with Trustees Kevin Fitzgerald, Aaron Karow, Bill Kaskin and Jeremy Knoll voting in favor and Trustees Barbara Andres and Sharon Bower and President Howard Skinner voting against.

In 2017, Twin Lakes Police Department Officer Joseph Patla had spearheaded the drive to bring a K9 to the department and act as its handler. Funding for the purchase of the dog as well as maintenance of the animal came from community fundraising.

Last month, Patla gave notice he was leaving the department. He offered to work with the department part-time with Rex until a new officer could be trained, he said. When that was rejected by department administration, he sought to purchase the dog from the village for $6,000.

Last week, at a special Village Board meeting, the board rejected selling the dog to Patla in a 5 to 1 vote with Knoll voting against and Fitzgerald abstaining.

In the meantime, some community members got energized about letting the dog stay with Patla. An online petition was started and an online fundraising drive conducted to add to the amount of money offered to the village for the dog.

In the end, the action Monday by the village set the amount at $18,000. Some board members said they understood that to be the amount it would take to replace Rex with another K9 and train a new handler. Skinner pointed out it also was the sum of the $6,000 Patla had offered to pay for the dog and the $12,000 raised by the online campaign.

There was no public comment during the meeting. Patla, whose last day with the TLPD was Thursday, was in the audience, but did not speak at the meeting.

Discussion by the board was brief before the vote, with Fitzgerald questioning the price of $18,000. He thought the appropriate amount was $16,000, he said.

After the vote, Skinner handed the floor to TLPD Chief Adam Grosz, who explained the department’s position on Rex staying with the department and retraining with another handler.

Grosz praised the contribution Rex made to the department in apprehending suspects, in protecting officers and in public relations. He added the rest of the department supported Rex staying on with the TLPD. About 10 officers in uniform stood together during the meeting in the audience.

“Nobody asked Joe Patla to leave our department … but it didn’t mean that Rex had to end his career,” Grosz said. “Rex was an outstanding K9 officer. We were blessed to find a great one in Rex.”

If one expert consulted by the department had said Rex would be better off staying with Patla rather than continuing to work as a police K9, Grosz would have advocated for keeping the pair together, he said. Instead, the experts said Rex would likely be happier and healthier continuing to work with a new handler, Grosz said.

“I believe this is a disservice to Rex and the community,” Grosz said.

Skinner said he appreciated the support and work put in by the TLPD leadership and officers on this issue.

“I feel that I and the Village Board were backed into a corner,” Skinner said. “This will not happen again on my watch.”

The sale is contingent on approval of a written agreement by the village, Patla and the police association.

Over 30 members of the public were at the special meeting.

A view of the audience at the special meeting just before the meeting started.

Grosz said there are two current TLPD police officers who have expressed interest in becoming the department’s next K9 handler.


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