It's been at least 35 years that the Carbon County K-9 service was established. It came about because Carbon had no way of dealing with a growing problem of dogs running loose.

At that time, the closest SPCA was located in Stroudsburg and the service provided to Carbon County wasn't adequate.

Last week, the Carbon County Commissioners announced that they are considering doing away with the K-9 program; that it has become to expensive. A $27,000 dog enforcement grant which the county had received from the state is being eliminated because of the state's budget cuts.

The commissioners are concerned about the financial burden K-9 is placing on the county taxpayers.

A question that has to be asked:

Will eliminating K-9 present a larger financial and safety burden to Carbon residents?

The commissioners are hoping some private organization might take over the K-9 program. But would it be run effectively? There would have to be assurances.

Presently police departments of participating communities call the K-9 officers when a dog is running loose or if an investigation of cruelty or potential neglect is occurring. Will our four-legged friends be afforded such protection if the K-9 program expires?

We understand the fiscal ramifications of the K-9 program. It is a costly program. It's also unlikely the state will have a change of heart and restore the funding.

The K-9 program in Carbon has annual expenses of $92,142, while income is estimated at about $17,600. If this were a private business and not operated by the county, obviously it wouldn't stay operating very long.

However, most county operations aren't based on profit. They're based on services to the residents of the county.

K-9 is no exception. Yet, nearly $100,000 in expenses is big chunk in the county's budget.

What's the answer?

The program can't just be eliminated. Police departments need a place to put the dogs they pick-up that are let loose by heartless and irresponsible owners. They have to have a site where they can place dangerous dogs that they find threatening people.

Also, the police need a K-9 officer to assist them when dog situations arise.

The K-9 program does more than merely pick up stray dogs. It takes in litters of abandoned puppies. It makes an effort to try to adopt many of the dogs placed in the shelter. It gives shelter and food to unwanted dogs.

For at least 35 years the K-9 Program has been serving Carbon County residents very well. Hopefully, some organizations will step up to the plate and pledge support of program - both financially and with volunteers.

The county can't afford to let K-9 lapse. The results could affect the safety of local residents. It also would be sad for many of our four-legged friends who are rescued by K-9, and especially those who are given a second chance in new homes.

The Carbon County Commissioners are welcoming suggestions for keeping the program intact.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com