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End of watch for Madison County Sheriff's first Canine Team

By NEWSChannel 2 Staff

WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. - Madison County’s first narcotic canine team, known throughout the law enforcement community as unit K9-1, is no longer available.

The team, consisting of canine Lida and her handler, Deputy Lance Zaleski, were coming close to the end of their joint efforts when Lida was due to retire in March of this year, as she ten years old.

“Lida was starting to show signs of her age” said Sheriff Allen Riley, “but her nose was as good as the day she started, and her police instincts were as sharp as ever. While she was very intimidating as a police dog, on the other hand, she was a gentle and caring animal and a loyal partner to Deputy Zaleski.”

Onset of a serious health issue gripped the animal recently, and she was on medication and being examined by the Sheriff’s Office veterinarian to address those issues, but her condition deteriorated rapidly this past weekend. Lida was put to rest on Monday, February 18th.

Lida was a 10 year old German Shepherd, born in the Czech Republic. She possessed an Advanced Narcotics Certification, as well as certifications for tracking and police patrol work, which consisted of building searches, area Deputy Zaleski and Lida searches, and apprehensions. Lida and Zaleski maintained their
certifications with intense monthly trainings, done in conjunction with other police agency canine teams from Onondaga and Cayuga Counties as well as the Syracuse Police Department.

Since coming onto duty in 2005, Lida and Zaleski were routinely called upon for not only drug searches, but building and area searches. Lida searched for not only suspects, but missing or lost children, and adults that wandered from their homes.

One of the more notable cases took place when the team assisted the Town of DeWitt Police with a vehicle search. Lida’s detection allowed law enforcement to seize nearly 8 pounds of marijuana and $50,000 in cash that was hidden in the vehicle. The team also was involved in numerous cases that over the years have led to the seizure of large amounts of marijuana and narcotics in Madison
County. Lida was also responsible for the apprehension of ten individuals on various call-outs that involved building searches, mostly residential but also when three juveniles broke into the Otto Shortell Middle School. The team also performed several community service events at area schools.

Lida spent her years as a police dog side by side with Zaleski, and lived with the Zaleski family at their home.

She was buried on Zaleski’s property where she spent most of her life.

The Sheriff’s Office still has an active K9 team in place. Deputy Shawn Burbidge and his partner, Kota, are a certified explosive detection canine team, and also certified in tracking and police patrol. The team started duty early in 2012.

Sheriff Riley noted “having an invaluable resource such as a narcotic detection canine team in this County, to assist in our efforts with the ongoing battle of illegal drugs in our communities is essential.” The Sheriff will be working with County Supervisors to obtain funding for the replacement of a narcotic canine team.

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