German Shepherd fan raising money for K9 officers in Bristol

BRISTOL --  A Bristol man is combining his love of German Shepherds with his love of his hometown, and coming up with a way to help fight the opioid epidemic.

Phil Vonella has had about 10 different shepherds over the past 40 years. He says the breed is astonishingly intelligent, extremely loyal, and have a sense of smell tens of thousands of times more sensitive than a humans.

Those attributes also make them ideal police K-9’s. The Bristol Police Department uses 2 German Shepherd K-9 teams. Patrolman Conor Hogan is partners with Bronn – named after a Game of Thrones character – and they’re a great asset in tracking down deadly drugs like opioids. Police Chief Brian Gould said “These people find crafty places to hide their narcotics. If not for the K9s, we wouldn’t be able to find where they’re hiding their product.”

But the price of buying, training, and outfitting a K9 can be $15,000 or more. Phil had donated to the K-9 fund before, but he wanted to take it up a notch. So with the department’s blessing, he formed a non-profit called “Operation Opioid” with the sole purpose of raising enough money before the end of 2018 to buy two dogs from Germany, and get them outfitted to patrol the Bristol streets.

Phil wants to give Bristol an elite squad of drug-sniffing dogs.

He said, “We have to send a message out that Bristol’s going to be a very tough town if you’re considering it to deal you deadly drugs on the street. You’re going to be caught. You’re going down.”

So far, with help from businesses, foundations, and ordinary people in Bristol, Operation Opioid has raised $35,000, with a goal of $50,000 by the end of November.

If you’d like to donate, click here.