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San Diego Police Department to fold mounted unit, auction off horses to cut costs

February 5, 2010 |  3:09 pm

The San Diego Police Department is auctioning off the horses and equipment of its mounted enforcement unit in an effort to avoid laying off police officers.

The department hosted an open house Thursday for the 10-day online auction that began Feb. 1, said Assistant Chief Bob Kanaski.

Seven horses -- Wam, Trigger, Major, Junior, Bret, Bandit and Austin -- were fetching bids from $3,900 to $10,200 as of Friday morning.

The horses, who range from 5 to 16 years old, were used to patrol Balboa Park and participate in ceremonial events, Kanaski said.

"They give the officers a high-up advantage," he said. "Crowds seem to settle down when a horse is around, because no one wants to go up against a horse."

Twelve-year-old Bret stood out for his dark, nearly black coat, and 5-year-old Junior drew 78 bids, with the highest at $10,200, Kanaski said. Police officials will check to make sure the highest bidders have the resources to properly care for the horses, he said.

The city expects to save about $243,000 by selling the horses. The move is part of a larger $16-million budget reduction the department undertook to avoid laying off officers. It has already laid off 87 civilians, Kanaski said.

The department's other four-legged section, the K-9 unit, lost 12 dogs, a cut expected to save the city from $500,000 to $600,000. It still has 27 dogs left.

Officers who worked in the mounted unit will miss working with the horses, he said.

"They were sad, but I also think they realized what needed to be done," he said.

-- Amina Khan