EAST PALESTINE - The spunky canine making waves on the local police force has finally met the family of her namesake.
K-9 Toney, the one-and-a-half year old Belgian Malinois from North Carolina met Tony Venezia's family during a recent demonstration at the village park.
The full service K-9 was named after Venezia to honor him and his family for their dedication to the community, and specifically, the police department.
Morning Journal/Katie Schwendeman
Police Chief Kevin Dickey presented Ellianna Venezia with a plaque featuring K-9 Toney’s picture following a recent demonstration at Village Park. Toney was named after Ellianna’s late father, Tony Venezia.
Venezia passed away from health complications in 2006 at the age of 26.
His parents, Ron and Sue Venezia, widow Angie Venezia-McCarthy and their daughter Ellianna watched the K-9 demonstration and were presented with plaques from the police department bearing a picture of Toney.
Police Chief Kevin Dickey said it was the family's donation of a vehicle following Tony's passing that paved the way for the K-9 to be on the force.
Ron and Sue Venezia own Venezia Auto Sales on state Route 14 and had donated a trailblazer to the department for the association to raffle off.
Sgt. Don Johnson, Toney's handler, said the trailblazer brought in about $8,000 for the department. Of that, some money was spent to purchase computer equipment and upgrade the video system.
The remainder of the money was put into the association's account for a future purchase, although at that time they weren't sure what that purchase would be.
"We wanted to wait to use the money for a really good reason," he said.
It was Dickey who suggested acquiring a K-9 last year. The department began putting the word out that a K-9 was wanted and donations came pouring in some even from areas outside the village.
With the donations and money left over from the trailblazer Johnson was able to go to North Carolina and bring Toney to East Palestine.
She was officially put on the force in September and has since helped officers on more than one occasion with the tracking of illegal drugs and criminals.
Village Manager Pete Monteleone said it is clear Toney is making a difference locally.
"We are really proud. From 2011 to 2012 drug arrests increased by 560 percent. That's a staggering number if you ask me. Toney is a huge tool in this process," he said.
"I can say with working with these guys and working with Toney on the street, I have actually seen the dog sniff around the car, alert to something and actually leap into the window. She's really on the ball," he said.
Monteleone, village officials and the police department thanked the Venezias and all others who donated the funding that paid for not only her purchase, but extensive training.
"We want to thank them for really stepping up," Monteleone said.
The K-9 cost about $7,000 and roughly $1,400 was made available through donations outside of the Venezia's efforts.