Dog park proposed near sheriff’s office

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee dog owners may soon have a new place to take their dogs to run and play with other dogs.

At the Sept. 13 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, Sheriff Noel Stephen asked for the commission’s approval to fence the area in front of the former site of the old hospital (which is next door to the sheriff’s office) for dog training area and dog park.

Sheriff Stephen said his department now has a dual purpose K-9 on every shift. These dogs are trained to detect drugs and also to assist their human partners in protecting the public.

The K-9s require weekly training, said the sheriff. He said they have been using the lot in front of the site of the old hospital for this training. He said the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and Gilbert Ford are interested in partnering for a fundraiser to turn the area into a dual purpose training area and dog park.

The training schedule would be posted, he said, and dog owners could use the area when the sheriff’s office is not conducting training.

County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper said some members of the public might like to watch the K-9 training. He asked if this would be a distraction for the K-9s.

“If anything, spectators would enhance the training, as the dogs have to learn to work despite distractions,” said the sheriff. “If there is any confidentiality involved in training we would travel out of the area,” he added.

Michael Hazellief said the Fraternal Order of Police recognizes the need the sheriff has for the K-9 training program.

“The K-9 program takes narcotics off the street,” he said. “It is a huge asset to our community.”

“If we can all get together an utilize that space, FOP and Gilbert Ford have a fundraising opportunity. We could multi-purpose this area to be a dog training area for K-9s, and a dog park for the citizens when the sheriff’s office is not using it,” he explained.

He said they hope to do this solely with private funding.

“The first step is to get permission to even do it. Then we will start asking for donations and other funding to make it happen.”

They plan to fence the area with separate sides for big dogs and small dogs, as well as put in shade and water.

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