Source: Toronto Star (Canada)
Pubdate: Monday, August 24, 1998
Section: Page A2
Author: Roberta Avery, Special to the Star


MOUNT FOREST -- Ontario Provincial Police officers here will soon be using
retired racehorses on drug raids.

"We know of a number of areas where marijuana is being grown that are
inaccessible for our four-wheel drive vehicles. The horses will be a great
help in that respect," Constable Bob Mclntee said.

Four officers are being trained for the program which begins this fall.

Some marijuana growers plant their crop in the middle of cornfields and
officers on horseback will be able to check without damaging legitimate
harvests, Mclntee said.

Another favourite spot for pot growers is on the other side of swampy areas
along abandoned railroad tracks, said Mclntee.

"Now we'll be able to get in those areas to see what's happening."

The first horse, Oscar, arrived at the detachment in April; another
yet-to-be-named horse arrived last week. Both are retired racehorses and
are kept in an Arthur-area barn to be used as needed, Mclntee said.

Oscar has already appeared at some fall fairs in the Mount Forest area,
south of Owen Sound, and will be used for crowd control. The horses could
also be used in parades and wherever else they are considered an asset.

"These horses are used to being trailered around and they're very calm
around peopIe," said Mclntee.

Unlike other Canadian police forces, the OPP doesn't have a mounted unit,
though a horse owned by an officer in Kirkland Lake in Northern Ontario is
used there on occasion.

"So we have the first mounted OPP officers in southern Ontario," said Mclntee.

The idea is the brainchild of Sergeant Steve Walsh who was transferred to
Mount Forest from Northern Ontario.

"We have had a lot of help from community partners who have been very
supportive of this idea," said Walsh.

The community has helped with expenses, while saddles for the two horses
came from Toronto police, who have scaled back their mounted units.

Walsh said it was premature to discuss plans for expanding the operation.

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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski