MANNINGTON, W.Va. (WBOY) — A Mannington Police officer was arrested for a felony in January, and now the city and organization that helped fund his K-9 partner are planning their next steps.
K-9 Valor has been part of the Mannington Police Department since March 2021, working under his handler Donald Sides until Sides was removed from the department after a felony assault arrest last month.
In 2020, a group of residents formed the group Mannington Bark Against Drugs (Mannington BAD) to help fund the Mannington Police Department getting a K-9 officer. The group raised $22,000 to get Valor, gave him to the city and helped pay for Sides’ K-9 training and other related expenses.
In a Mannington City Council meeting on Monday, the city and a representative of Mannington BAD discussed what will happen to K-9 Valor with Sides no longer working for the department. According to a memorandum handed out at the meeting by Mannington BAD, research does suggest that K-9 officers can be retrained under new handlers but only in some circumstances.
There are no other Mannington officers who are trained as K-9 handlers, and as of Monday’s meeting, no Mannington officers had stepped up to become one.
Additionally, because Valor lived with Sides, he may have a difficult time transitioning to a new handler, and research suggests that Belgian Malinois, Valor’s breed, are less likely to be successfully retrained than other K-9 breeds like German Shepherds.
Because of this, Valor’s original training facility in Kentucky is hesitant to try to retrain him, and as Mannington BAD co-chair Robin Smith said in an interview with 12 News, “It’s not like you can pass him off to another officer. He is trained with that officer.”
Sides’ daughter believes that because of her father’s close connection with K-9 Valor, Valor should stay with him.
“Valor is just as much his partner as he is Valor’s partner,” she said. She continued, “It seems like you are failing to see that he is in a loving home… by everything in my body, I know that Valor should be with my father,” she said.
She also said that she would be willing to help the committee, Mannington BAD, raise more funds for an additional K-9 if Valor could stay with her father.
In response, Robin Smith said, “This committee, we have no control over what happens with your dad and that situation; that’s entirely council’s. We wanted to be sure that Valor had a voice in this room.”
Both Mannington BAD and members of the Mannington City Council, including Mayor Laura Michael, believe it is in Valor’s best interest to keep him working if possible.
“Unfortunately, you have to look at him as equipment. We look at dogs—I have a couple—just like offsprings,” Michael said. “But this dog is a K-9 officer that can be used for drug detection, to find lost people that have wondered; it’s a rescue dog. So this dog is vital to our community and we would love to keep him in our community.”
At this point, the next step is for the city to take K-9 Valor for evaluation in Pennsylvania to see if he can be retrained and reconvene afterward. In the meantime, Smith said that Valor is being taken care of and will continue to be taken care of until a decision is made. If K-9 Valor cannot be retrained, he would be retired and returned to his handler.