CLEARWATER — Rudy and Smokey may not be as well-known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but the city's police patrol horses are on the job keeping public parks safe.
The city council is expected to approve a new three-year agreement with the horses' owners Thursday that calls for the city to pay $300 a month plus mileage reimbursement for the service.
The city also will assume responsibility for costs associated with injuries or property damage that the horses may cause while on duty. If the animals are injured on the job, the city will agree to pay a maximum of $3,500 per horse for the term of the contract.
Rudy and Smokey are owned by police Officer Nancy Miller and volunteer Deborah Storey. The horses stay on property owned by Miller.
Annual expenses to feed, care and transport the horses tally to about $7,700, according to city records. The cost covers grain and hay, grooming supplies, hoof trimming, vaccinations and maintenance associated with the truck and trailer, which Miller owns and uses to transport the horses.
During a work session on Monday, Police Chief Anthony Holloway told the council that the city's first mounted police unit was established in 2011 to combat sexual cruising in Lake Chautauqua Park. A resident complained that his 10-year-old son was approached twice by men in the park. Undercover officers later arrested three men accused of trolling for casual sex.
Today, the city's equine unit is used to access areas where police vehicles or officers on foot cannot, according to the police chief. The unit patrols parks to increase police visibility, offer public assistance, deter crime and check for homeless camps.
The patrol area includes the Ream Wilson Trail, a 13-mile bicycling and pedestrian path, also known as the East West Trail that connects areas from Tampa Bay to Clearwater Beach. Plus, the unit patrols Wood Valley Park at 2816 Park Trail Lane and Cliff Stephens Park at 600 Fairwood Ave.
Holloway said the horses additionally provide a unique presence at events like National Night Out, which raises awareness of community policing, and at parades, ceremonial and honor guard affairs, and sporting venues like E.C. Moore Complex at 2780 Drew St. and Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road.