Gun Lake Casino on Friday, Jan. 7, said it donated $4,000 to support the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department K-9 training.
The funds will pay for the training of the department’s 3-year-old German shepherd, Thor, and his new handler, Deputy Scott Vereeke.
Thor’s previous handler, Sgt. Ben Haas, is being promoted within the department, and his position requires more time and responsibility.
The sheriff’s department has four dogs. One of the dogs, 6-year-old K-9 Lajki will be retiring in March due to health issues. Two of the remaining three K-9s also are due to retire in the next three years because of declining health.
“Due to some promotions, we had a need for some training dollars that weren’t budgeted,” said Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker. “Gun Lake Casino coming through with this donation at this time is very opportune for us.”
Vereeke will undergo a five-week training course with Thor at Mid-Michigan Police K-9 in Eaton Rapids in late March. Training will help the team develop a deeper relationship while undergoing education in narcotics detection, tracking, building searches, article searches and handler protection.
“Because of this donation, I’m able to go to training, and I’m extremely excited about it,” Vereeke said. “This is an opportunity that not many people will get in their lives. I’m so honored to have it.”
Gun Lake Casino and the Gun Lake Tribe previously teamed up to purchase two K-9s for the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department in 2011 and in 2019, when Thor was purchased.
“Gun Lake Casino is committed to making our community a safer place,” said Gun Lake Casino President and COO Sal Semola. “This donation is another example of our ongoing relationship with our local law enforcement to ensure they have the resources and training to be properly equipped.”
Baker said the Gun Lake Tribe and Gun Lake Casino donations account for 75% of funding for the Allegan County K-9 unit.
“Our relationship with Gun Lake Casino and the Gun Lake Tribe has been going on since the casino opened,” he said. “We couldn’t more thankful for this donation to keep our K-9 unit operating.”