TWIN LAKES -- The Twin Lakes Village Board on Monday night, July 6 moved to allow K-9 Rex to stay with former Officer Joe Patla for the purchasing price of $18,000. The board set a special meeting after the decision to retain the dog drew controversy, and dozens came out in support or opposition. K-9 Rex's future was the only item on the agenda Monday night -- and at times, the meeting got heated as people debated what was best for the dog.
The controversy began when Officer Patla put in his two weeks' notice. The village board said "fine," but the K-9 officer would not be allowed to keep the dog. Patla offered to purchase Rex, but was told he could not.
"In my opinion, if you don't honor a contract, and you want a parting gift on top of it, or if you don't honor your country, it truly sickens me!" said Howard Skinner, village board president.
Twin Lakes Police Chief Adam Grosz
According to the police chief, there was a prior agreement during the K-9's purchase that he would remain with the department through his career.
"If one subject matter expert we spoke to that Rex would in anyway be harmed by retaining him, I would have instantly fought for K-9 Rex to stay with Officer Patla," said Twin Lakes Police Chief Adam Grosz.
After that announcement, pushback from the village's residents was immediate. Petitions started floating around online to keep the pair together -- and a GoFundMe account was created to raise money to hep Patla purchase the dog. Many claimed 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.
Officer Patla issued this statement to FOX6 News on July 1, when FOX6 first covered this controversy:
"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."
Following the board's decision to allow Patla to purchase Rex, he declined to do any interviews and instead said he'd be issuing a statement on the outcome.