K-9 controversy stirs at Twin Lakes Police Department: 'We're going to retain Rex'

Twin Lakes Police Chief Adam Grosz

TWIN LAKES, Wis. -- There is a K-9 controversy in the Village of Twin Lakes -- after a handler put in his two-week notice. The village board said "fine," but members will not let the officer keep the dog.

Everyone who has been in a relationship knows, breakups are tough.

"They do spend 24 hours a day with the handler. The handler takes care of them. It does go to the handler's home," said Twin Lakes Police Chief Adam Grosz.

So when K-9 Officer Joe Patla put in his two weeks notice, the police chief knew it was going to get messy.

"The village board made the decision last night, and we've done extensive research since learning of Officer Patla leaving the department. And we've made the decision that we're going to retain Rex as a member of our community," Chief Grosz said.

Officer Patla can go, but his K-9 companion Rex must stay with the police department.

"It has been the agreement from the beginning that if Officer Patla chose to leave that the animal would remain property of Twin Lakes," Grosz said.

Since the announcement was made, pushback from the village's residents was immediate. Petitions started floating around online to keep the pair together. Many claim their tax dollars paid for the dog -- and they should decide where the animal goes. But the police chief said that is not the case.

"We created a separate fund, a K-9 fund, gathered donations from the community for that fund. But it was always under the agreement that the village would retain property, ownership, of the animal throughout its career," Grosz said.

However, if the community were able to get the department a new trained K-9 to fill Rex's void, the chief said he would bring it to the village board for discussions.

Officer Patla issued this statement to FOX6 News Wednesday evening:

"The Village of Twin Lakes board has worked hard to ensure they make the best decisions based on information provided to them.  Their track record of support and good decisions for the community is commendable.  Unfortunately, Chief Grosz presented a one-sided view that did not reveal all the facts.

"Although untimely, I accepted another opportunity that will be better for my family.   With all that was invested into creating the first ever Twin Lakes K9 program, I felt it was important that a reasonable solution was provided to the Chief.

"I offered to work part time with K9 Rex until another handler was selected and could complete the certification with a new K9 partner this fall.   At this point, I offered to purchase K9 Rex for $6,000, which would help off set the cost of the new dog.

" There is an expired K9 agreement between the police union and the Village which provided a buy-out clause.  If a handler were to leave the program before 6 years, there was a pro-rated purchase price.  Although K9 Rex is technically “property” in their eyes, this clause allows this type of situation to occur.  It is a common stipulation in this type of agreement.

"K9 Rex is like a child to me.  He spends nearly 24 hours a day by me in the house or riding in the squad.  He is even on watch during the night, as he sleeps next to our bed.  Although there is an emotional attachment, there are several reasons why retraining a 4-year-old K9, although possible, can be a gamble.  K9 Rex will now spend anywhere between 40-50 days at a kennel until a new handler would be ready to start with him.

"Although I was not invited to stay as a part time officer, I will continue to serve the community as a volunteer firefighter/EMT.  I will miss having input on various public safety measures, as I served as the police liaison for one of our school districts safety committee.  I live in the community and do not want to see this program fail.

"In closing, I respect there are varying opinions from various K9 kennels throughout the country.  K9 Rex has been with me for the past 3 years in August.  With over 17 years’ experience with participating in K9 training, working with police dogs, attending K9 workshops, and 3 years as a handler,  I feel I am in the best position to recommend what is  better for K9 Rex and the Twin Lakes K9 program.  Although I am not happy with the decision, I urge our community to support each other and our public safety members.

"My family is deeply humbled by all the outpouring of support.  I wish I had a proper description for the love we have been shown.  I am at a loss for words to express our sincere gratitude.  Thank you."

Joe Patla

FOX6 News also reached out to the village, but have not yet heard back.

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