HENDERSON/RUSK COUNTY (KYTX) - A former K-9 officer is back with his former sheriff's office handler, after a controversial auction this afternoon.
K-9's are usually sold or adopted out upon retirement, but the law required that the Dutch shepherd (kay-ro) caro be auctioned.
Former officer Caro was purchased under a previous administration using drug seizure money. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is very specific about how a department can get rid of property purchased with seizure money. It has to be auctioned off. That didn't stop the Rusk County Sheriff's Office from getting calls from coast to coast.
At high noon Friday -- more than a dozen people lined up for the auction of former K-9 officer Caro, but only Caro's handler -- former Rusk County Sheriff's Sergeant Jason Smith -- entered a bid.
"I'm starting the bidding at a hundred dollars with Jason right here," Sgt. David Roberts said, opening the bidding beside former Sgt. Smith. "Do I have two? Going once, twice, three times, sold for a hundred dollars!"
It took less than 10 seconds -- long enough to bring tears to Pam Layne's eyes.
"I'm ecstatic. Caro went back to his owner, which is what we always wanted," Layne said.
The sheriff's office decided to retire Caro after Smith left the department for a private sector job. Smith didn't want to comment, but everyone at Friday's auction wanted only one thing -- for Caro to reunite with smith.
"The intention was that, hopefully, the handler would be the one to end up with the dog," Sheriff Price said.
According the sherriff's office, it was inundated with calls and internet messages from people outraged that Caro would be sold at an auction. Price even shut down the department's Facebook page because of the national response.
"I had a call from New York, a call from Houston. They were coming from anywhere from New York to California," sheriff's office receptionist Dixie Duncan said. "It was just people concerned that drug dealers would be the ones that would be buying the dog."
And either hurting him or using him to protect a drug operation. And they were afraid the auction would separate the dog and handler. But they didn't know Smith already left the department and Caro had no handler.
"They thought that we were trying to take the dog away from the handler, which was not the case," Price said.
Earlier this summer, the department bought another K-9 officer -- Spaz -- with money donated to Rusk County Crime Stoppers. And because Spaz wasn't purchased with drug seizure money, he won't end up on the auction block when he retires.
Sheriff Price said his office's facebook page will be back up and running soon, and he says no other K-9 officers in Rusk County will need to be auctioned.