York Area Regional police introduced their new K-9 officer, Vilko, in September 2013.
York Area Regional police introduced their new K-9 officer, Vilko, in September 2013.

York Area Regional Police is without a K-9 program after its handler resigned to take a job with a department in the Poconos.

Now York Area Regional plans to sell its police dog, Vilko, who joined the police service after community members donated funds for his purchase, to another department because an officer isn't available to take over as his handler, said Chief Tom Gross.

"Without a handler you can't have a dog," said Albert Granholm, chairman of the department's board.

Vilko joined the department about six months ago after the department collected about $20,000 during a campaign headed by his handler, Officer Michael Sampere. Vilko replaced the department's previous dog, Brando, when he retired after about eight years of service.

Sampere, who joined the department in 2001, resigned at the end of January for a job with Stroud Area Regional Police in East Stroudsburg.

What's next: Despite being without a trained handler and a police dog, Granholm said this isn't the end of the department's K-9 program.

"I don't believe the program's going away," he said.

The donated money was set aside for the purchase of another dog or could be returned to donors if that doesn't happen, Granholm said. The money the department gets when it sells Vilko will also be set aside, he said.

The board will decide whether to purchase and train a new dog, which is a costly endeavor.

The training process is long and never ending. Vilko and Sampere spent four weeks training together before they went on their first patrol. Dogs and their handlers continually train together year-round.

But the cost, Gross said, is well worth it.

Brando and Vilko are trained to sniff out drugs, track criminals and find people who are lost, and have convinced a number of criminals to surrender to officers without a fight.

"It's something that has a lot of support from the community," Gross said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.