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Foundation supports K-9s in Northland

One man’s love of dogs is reaching out to encompass the entire community. For more than a decade, Al Amatuzio, founder and president of AMSOIL, has been instrumental in providing funding for area K-9 unit dogs.

“Al has a fondness for dogs, particularly German shepherds, and he has an admiration for service dogs such as police K-9s,” said Superior Deputy Chief Nick Alexander. “So throughout the years, he has individually helped when he’s become aware a department needed help in purchasing a K-9 or training or equipment or so on.”

Now, everyone can help. The nonprofit AMSOIL Northland Law Enforcement K-9 Foundation was launched this year to make the giving more permanent and universal. The foundation offers businesses and individuals an opportunity to contribute to K-9 programs in two states and four jurisdictions.

“We really can’t thank Al enough for really looking to the future, to set something up that’s going to be permanent funding for these animals,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Michelle Jazdzewski. Both she and Alexander are members of the foundation board.

“We wanted to give everybody a way to donate tax-free to help support these dogs that are a vital part of our law enforcement in the area, and it’s a good cause, said Dean Alexander with AMSOIL, also a board member. “People love animals, just like Al does.”

The foundation has both a Facebook page and a website, The site boasts pictures of the 10 Northland K-9s and describes the work they do: Sniffing out drugs, tracking and uncovering suspects, calming crowds and keeping officers safe. It also provides a glimpse of the dogs’ personalities.

Duluth Police Officer Rebecca Kopp said her K-9 partner, Malikai “thinks he can be a 74-pound lap dog and likes to curl up on your lap and get petted.”

It can cost up to $10,000 for a department to purchase a dog. There is an additional cost to train the dog and handler, and provide gear such as bulletproof vests, collars with GPS tracking and kennels. The community has been supportive of the K-9 units. Dan’s Feed Bin provides food for Blek, the Superior Police Department’s dog, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office dog Beau. Superior Animal Hospital and Boarding Suites provides veterinary services for the K-9s. But between the four agencies, about two K-9 dogs will need to be replaced each year, according to Alexander.

“That’s why AMSOIL’s involved in it,” Dean Alexander said. “We just wanted to try to bring this together and get all these agencies working together to try to make sure that we continue to have K-9 units.”

The next dog up for retirement is Blek, who has been partnered with Officer Todd Maas since 2006. He will retire in March, Alexander said. A new K-9 officer, Nick Eastman, has been selected to partner with the department’s new dog. Because they will have two different dogs and handlers, Alexander said, the department can gradually retire Blek as the new canine is starting into service.

For more information about the foundation, look up the website or the facebook page, Northland K9 Foundation.