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City Officials: Bite training that occurs elsewhere

The controversial dog bite training club that has garnered attention in Jefferson City has gone quiet in the area, city officials say.

Jefferson City Police Chief Eric Wilde said he had never heard of the Smokin’ Guns Working Dog Club, a Mid-Missouri-based group that teaches dogs obedience, agility, acrobatics, dock diving and work with bites, since the city sent a cease-and-desist to prevent him from exercising in city parks.

“We haven’t heard of them being back in town since that letter was sent,” Wilde told the Public Safety Committee at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday morning. “They may be more active in other areas like Versailles, but we haven’t heard of their activities here.”

City Attorney Ryan Moehlman said he has spoken to members of the group and there have been no reports of further activity in the area. He said the problem was the location rather than the training.

“It’s less about the business and more about its compatibility with our parks,” Moehlman said. “Get a business license if that’s what you want to do, find a private place to do it, but we don’t think that’s an activity that goes hand in hand with families having picnics, playing ball, that sort of thing.”

The matter was raised earlier this month when vets at Weathered Rock Veterinary Clinic brought it to the attention of the city council, showing videos of the group training dogs near parks and with children in attendance. They argued that using the park posed a public danger, while panel members said that bite work was a nationally recognized canine sport.

The group’s Facebook page lists recent events that have taken place in the Versailles area.

In other business, Wilde said the department is getting closer to implementing cameras for the officer corps. The department is finalizing a draft of its policies for the US Department of Justice, the latest hurdle in accessing federal funds and signing a contract with a supplier for the equipment.

“I think once the formal federal process is done, we will be able to implement it very quickly,” Wilde said. “We’ve already got training protocols in place, so right now we’re just waiting for the final grade and we’ll be good to go.”

He said the department would likely be ready to move forward by late spring. The equipment would be funded through a $180,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and $445,000 from the city budget.

He also noted that a new K9 officer, Micky, is currently in training with his handler, Officer Paul Gash. The Jefferson City Missouri Police Foundation announced it would pay for the new dog after learning of the loss of Gash’s former K9 officer, Drax, last month. Wilde said there has been a surge of support from across the country and that, in the wake of the recent loss of a Kansas City police officer and a K9 officer, it is important to recognize the impact of these events on their community.

Jefferson City Fire Chief Matthew Schofield said there was nothing to formally announce about the project, but the replacement of the department’s burnt building is making progress. The city has allocated $1 million to the effort to replace the 30-year-old training facility around Hyde Park, with $300,000 so far from Cole County.

He also noted that March 1 marks the end of the open burning season of yard waste for the city. The city ordinance allows residents to burn small sticks, leaves, grass clippings and other garden waste from dawn to dusk on owned property, but not trash. He said Jefferson City residents can leave their yard waste for free at the 2417 South Ridge Drive composting facility.

The next meeting of the Public Safety Committee is scheduled for March 30.

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