Deputies put hoofs back on the beats |

Deputies put hoofs back on the beats

Horses are again part of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department.

On the Fourth of July, their mounted unit was on patrol at South Shore for the first time since October 1999.

A lack of money caused the prolonged hiatus. Now they’re back, with five deputies; down from the eight they had in 1999.

Money from the U.S. Forest Service was a major factor in resurrecting the unit, said Undersheriff Jeff Neves.

“It’s use it or lose it money,” he said. “Really it’s free money to the county primarily to use horses to patrol up in forested areas.”

The sheriff’s department has also squeezed the horse program back into their budget.

“We got it started on a shoestring and anytime you have a special unit there are expenses,” said Sheriff Hal Barker. “We’ll try to keep the expenses to a minimum. I think the unit is so important, particularly in South Lake Tahoe on New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July.”

This year on the Fourth of July, the mounted patrol policed Fallen Leaf Lake Campground, Camp Richardson and beaches in the county. Sgt. Don Atkinson, supervisor of the unit, said they issued some warnings but no tickets.

Atkinson said he does not expect to have horses out working on New Year’s Eve because they need extensive training before they wade into large crowds. He said as far as he knows money has not been earmarked for that training.

The last time sheriff’s horses worked New Year’s was in 1999. Atkinson said they helped pull law enforcement officers from a rowdy crowd.

“They are able to get to areas that others can’t get to and can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time,” Atkinson said. “People see us and know were out there working.”

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