Cherokee Marshal’s Office chooses different path to create K-9 unit as abuse cases rise

As the Cherokee Marshal’s Office reports a worrying uptick in animal abuse cases, they’re choosing a different path for creating a new K-9 unit in hopes of improving conditions for residents and animals.

According to officials, the Marshal’s Office recently took in Reggie, a 1-year-old standard poodle. They plan to have Reggie help with education and community engagement, particularly with showing children how to properly approach, treat and care for animals across the county.

The Marshal’s Office said they want to focus on decreasing animal attacks on children and cases of animal neglect.

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In just 2023, the Marshal said they responded to 176 animal attacks on adults and 15 attacks on children. In October, the office started tracking attacks on children as a separate data point.

While investigating cases during 2023, Cherokee County Animal Control investigated 110 animal cruelty cases and 772 animal neglect cases, according to the Cherokee Marshal’s Office.

Chief Marshal Jamie Gianfala said he and his team have been planning to create an education program using a canine for roughly three years, with the last 18 months particularly intensive.

“If we can teach children and educate children how to properly interact, deal and take care of animals we’re going to be ahead of the game,” Gianfala told Channel 2′s Michele Newell.

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The Marshal’s Office said they researched breeds as well as a variety of training and certification programs.

In the end, they chose Tails for Hope, which donated Reggie, and the county took ownership last summer. Reggie’s handler, Sgt. Renae Goggans, has been continually training Reggie to get him ready for public appearances.

“Reggie is fantastic with children and adults, and I’m excited to see how he and Sgt. Goggans work together to educate children in our county,” Gianfala said in a statement. “We are extremely fortunate to have found such a wonderful, smart and calming dog from Tails for Hope – their generous donation means there’s no cost to the Cherokee County taxpayers. Reggie’s regular veterinary care is being donated by Animal Medical & Surgical Center in Canton.”

Gianfala also said Reggie did not cost county residents any tax dollars, thanks to Reggie’s donation from Tails for Hope.

The Marshal’s Office said they’re not going to use Reggie to look for drugs, bombs or chase after suspects, instead he’ll be focused on education and spending time with the community.

“Reggie is special,” Goggans said in a statement. “He brings calm to a storm, and I’ve seen what he can do. I don’t want to see another child or adult bitten or another animal neglected. I can’t wait to see what Reggie can do for our community.”

“Reggie and I love going out in the community but it gives him the opportunity to be petted and it gives me the opportunity to talk about animal control and being a responsible pet owner,” Goggans told Channel 2 Action News.

Reggie has an AKC Good Citizen Certification and has completed behavioral training. He and Sgt. Goggans are continuing to participate in both advanced obedience and service dog training.

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