Front Lines | South Fork police dog is chief’s ‘right-hand man’

Don Wyar, South Fork Borough’s chief of police, and his K-9 officer, Bas – pronounced “boss” – pose for a photo in the borough’s police station on Friday, May 25, 2018.

SOUTH FORK – The newest member of the South Fork Borough Police Department is credited with 11 arrests since last May.

“He works hard,” police Chief Donald Wyar said. “He’s my right-hand man.”

Wyar’s partner is a 2-year-old German shepherd named Bas (pronounced “boss”).  

Bas arrived with the help of Right Hand K-9 of Ogden, Utah, which trained him, and the National Police Dog Foundation in Camarillo, California, which awarded a $3,000 grant that subsidized his purchase.

Bas is certified in detecting marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, Wyar said.

Small communities fighting drugs need the help, the chief said.

Wyar said the next-closest police dog is in the city of Johnstown. Before Bas arrived, that left much of the county with no narcotics-sniffing K-9. 

“We have a major drug problem in Cambria County,” Wyar said. “We serve 14 municipalities from Richland to Gallitzin and Carrolltown.” 

Wyar said he and Bas were in Cherry Tree recently to help state police in Indiana find drugs in a meth house. In another recent incident, Bas detected a pound of marijuana during a traffic stop on Railroad Street in South Fork.

“When I’m off duty, I’m on call through 911,” Wyar said. “If somebody needs a dog, we go.”

Wyar has been in law enforcement for 15 years. He works part time in Summerhill Township and has been the full time police chief in South Fork for a year and a half. That means Bas often works the streets 12 hours a day.

When Wyar and Bas make a traffic stop and the driver refuses to let them search the vehicle, the dog’s training kicks in.

“We do what is called a free air sniff,” Wyar said. “‘Nobody owns the air around the vehicle.”

When Bas detects a drug odor, that gives Wyar probable cause to search the vehicle without needing a warrant.   

“If he finds one drug, that’s one less drug going into a kid or a teenager,” he said.

Suspected criminals might not like Bas, but law-abiding citizens have no worry, the chief said.

“One thing about Bas is he’s very sociable,” Wyar said. “He loves kids. I’ve had kids come into the office just to pet him. You’re building a relationship with the community.

“It’s good for the kids and bad for the criminals.”

The cost to bring Bas to the South Fork department was $10,000. But Wyar points out that the dog came at no cost to taxpayers. 

The National Police Dog Foundation grant was added to $7,000 raised through a basket raffle, he said.

Still, money is needed for food and veterinary care. and Wyar said fundraising never stops. He sells T-shirts stamped with the dog’s image, and Bas also has his own Facebook page that connects him with supporters around the country.

“He’s always got my back,” Wyar said. “You can’t put a price on that.”  

Donations can be sent to South Fork Borough K9 Fund, 507 Maple St., South Fork, PA 15956.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5061. Follow him on Twitter @PatBuchnowskiTD.

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