By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

More than 400 runners many with dogs joined Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and members of the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD) for the 9th annual K9-supporting GUARDIANS OF THE NIGHT 5K run beginning at the S.C. State Fairgrounds, Sat. July 23.

Pictured L-R are Joni James, pres. of the Richland County Sheriff’s Foundation; Sheriff Leon Lott; and Julie Chavis, Foundation treasurer

The nighttime run, which began at 10:30 p.m., began inside the fairgrounds with runners exiting the main gate before heading toward and winding through the Rosewood neighborhood and adjacent communities for 3.1 miles (5K). All proceeds from the run went toward the forthcoming purchases of protective vests for RCSD K9s (police service dogs), their veterinarian bills and other needs not covered by the County.

“Much of the costs of caring for the K9s are incurred by individual deputy K9 handlers,” said Capt. Maria Yturria, director of RCSD’s public information office. “This annual run helps with that. And the event is growing in terms of popularity and numbers of participants each year. We had hundreds of runners participating this year not counting several hundred of their family members, friends, and spectators.”

Sheriff Lott said, “This was and always is a fun night for all. It is a huge help and support for our K9 teams, and it is but another opportunity for us to involve the community in the things we do, for citizens to interact with our deputies and they with them. And the kids always love seeing the dogs.”

With 16 K9 teams, RCSD’s K9 unit is part of the Department’s Special Teams Division. RCSD’s K9s – a mix of 14 Belgian Malinois and two Dutch Shepherds – regularly conduct a variety of missions, and are trained to help locate illegal narcotics, apprehend fleeing felons, detect explosive devices and find lost or missing persons.

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