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Johnstown business leaders raising money for new K-9 vehicles

By Maria Miller
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- A group of business leaders in Johnstown is hoping to raise money for the city police department, specifically the K-9 unit. So far the group, made up of officials with AmeriServ Financial, Team Force, the Laurel Auto Group and the  Cambria/Somerset County Labor Management Authority, has raised about $7,000, but its members are seeking the community's help to raise about $60,000 more.

On Monday, Rocky, a Johnstown Police K-9, was playing with his handler and letting everyone in the room pet him. But he's not always that friendly. Rocky is crime-fighting tool and can be downright vicious when it comes to business. He's a necessity to the department and currently the only K-9 left after the unexpected passing of his brother, Athos, last month.

"We're in the process of training another handler and getting him certified and starting to work the street," said Officer Mike Kanuch of the Johnstown Police Department. "We're also in the process of speaking with a guy in Europe to have a new dog shipped over, hopefully by the middle of January."

Kanuch said it's all thanks to contributions from the community. But with dogs comes the need for new vehicles.

"After talking with Chief Foust a couple weeks ago, I found out the K-9 vehicle units have 140,000-plus miles on them and they're in need of replacement," said Jack Babich, senior vice president for AmeriServ Financial. "Then talking to the city manager and the mayor, the city just doesn't have the funds to support this initiative."

Local business leaders spoke of their goal on Monday to raise money for at least two new vehicles, specially equipped to transport K9 teams.

"This is not being done as a political campaign to get someone re-elected, this is purely being done by a group that wants to see our community safe," said Babich.

The businesses have raised about $7,000 already and the Laurel Auto Group has agreed to provide the vehicles at cost, but the hope is that the community pitches in another $60,000 for equipment they said will benefit the entire region.

"There's a lot of people out there that have a lot of needs, but keeping the streets safe (is important)," said Matt Smith of the Laurel Auto Group. "When (I learned) this department had started to decrease in size and the dogs and they needed more help, it was a pretty easy choice for us."

"I feel that we need to keep Johnstown safe for our children and for all the people who live here," said Michael Smith of the Laurel Auto Group.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can call the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies at 814-536-7741.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times