TAMPA — Chad, one of seven horses in the Tampa Police Department's mounted patrol, recently hurt his leg during a training exercise, an injury that required surgery.
Now the department is turning to the public for help with his growing medical costs.
After a scrape on Chad's front left leg became infected, veterinarians at the Surgi-Care Center for Horses in Brandon operated and are housing him while he recovers. The cost so far is close to $10,000, said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis. The department hasn't had to pay anything yet and Surgi-Care has given them discounts, she said.
But there isn't enough left in the budget for this fiscal year to cover the entire cost, so whatever they can't cover in donations will have to come out of the K-9 budget, she said.
"You always have to potentially anticipate something like this happening," Davis said. "But in our history, we've never had something like this happen."
She said the budget for the mounted patrol is small, less than $19,000, which is less than last year. The budget accounts for things like feed, supplies, routine medical care and small vet emergencies, police officials said in a blog post asking for help.
In the post, they say Chad is the best horse they have. He was donated to the unit 11 years ago.
"He is very patient with children at the countless demonstrations that he performs at throughout the year," the post said. "This year, Chad was the riderless horse for the TPD Memorial ceremony and for the State Memorial ceremony in Tallahassee."
The community has supported the mounted unit in the past, Davis said. All the horses were donated, and they are kept in a barn built from donations.
"Since we've had so much community support up to this point, we're hoping for the same type of support," Davis said.
Chad's recovery is expected to take three more months. After that, the department expects the 18-year-old thoroughbred will be able to work for five more years.
The mounted unit has six active horses and one in training. The unit is used for crowd control in places like Ybor City or large events at Raymond James Stadium.
Police said donations to help cover Chad's care can be made directly to Surgi-Care.
"He's dedicated a lot to the citizens of Tampa," Davis said. "We are hoping for the kind, generous nature of people in the community to help take care of Chad."
Contact Keeley Sheehan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3368. Follow @keeleymsheehan.