Fundraising efforts continue for a new Hubbard County Sheriff's Office K9 officer.

Oakley, the county's 9-year-old Belgian Malinois K9 officer, is nearing retirement. Sergeant Dan Kruchowski, Oakley's handler, said most K9 officers are in service between eight and ten years.

A committee of law enforcement officers and community members are raising the money to purchase the dog and related equipment, plus pay for the 12 weeks of training required for the new K9 and its handler. Costs are estimated at $50,000. To date, $20,000 has been raised, according to a sheriff's office news release.

Due to individuals wishing to support the project financially, Aukes said he made the decision to fundraise rather than putting the costs into his department's budget and assessing taxpayers.

"I simply can't imagine not having a K9 on the department," Aukes said. "The next K9 will be the sixth dog that the sheriff's office has had since the 1990s. Oakley has been exceptional in his ability in narcotics detection, his tracking and his apprehension of suspects. He truly has been a great, all-around dog and the most successful that the sheriff's office has had."

The goal is to garner all of the funds by September in order to attend the next K9 school.

Donations can be made to the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office, 301 Court Ave., Park Rapids, MN 56470.