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Stanislaus police mounted division put out to pasture after budget cuts | Life

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Stanislaus police mounted division put out to pasture after budget cuts
Life

MANTECA, CA - Police horses across the country are, literally, being put out to pasture.

Budget cuts and other economic woes are forcing many law enforcement agencies to disband their mounted divisions.

In San Joaquin Valley, only the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and Manteca Police Department maintain active mounted officers. In the last several years, however, both agencies saw severe cuts in their staffing.

"We've had two layoffs and several others dropped out of the unit because they couldn't afford it," said Deputy Donny Schwandt with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, which had its mounted division drop from 16 officers to 11.

Both agencies are able to maintain their mounted division only because officers burden the cost of keeping their own horse.

"The horse, the care, the equipment, pretty much everything is funded by the officer, because they want to be involved in the unit," Manteca Mounted Division Supervisor Officer Jodie Estarziau said. "I have trouble recruiting officers to come onto my team that I can rely on and who have the funds to do it."

The average cost to stable, feed, and care for a police horse averages $1,200 to $3,000 per year.

Mounted Division officers primarily have separate duties and patrols, but bring their certified horse to the force during special events and crowd control situations.

"My horse is worth 10 officers on foot," said Estarziau. "We have high visibility and can see over crowds. In a fight situation, we can angle the horses and move the crowds to the side without a problem."

Manteca Police Department lost two members of the unit last year and now only has two officers.

Often the unit works and trains with larger mounted divisions like the Sacramento Police Department.

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