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United Way of Lancaster County


Mounted Unit horses donated to N.J. State Police

Members of the Mounted Unit stop by a National Night Out event in southeast Lancaster in August 2023. (Photo: Paula Koda)

Angus, Jake and King are going to be Jersey boys.

The three horses are headed to the New Jersey State Police, where they can continue to serve the public, city police Chief Richard Mendez told City Council this week.

Their move is necessitated by the disbandment of the police department’s Mounted Unit. The announcement prompted a flood of inquiries about the horses’ future, and numerous offers to provide them homes, Mendez said. Many were local, while others came from as far away as Denver and New Orleans.

Police Chief Richard Mendez

The Mounted Unit’s own officers evaluated all of them. Mendez credited the Mounted Unit’s longest-serving officer, Scott McDonald, with identifying New Jersey as the best option.

Asked what factors were involved, Sgt. Todd Grager told One United Lancaster the department wanted to find the three young horses a place where they could continue their active service, rather than being put out to pasture prematurely.

“It’s what they’re trained to do,” he said.

The department also wanted to keep them together, which ruled out a number of smaller operations. The New Jersey State Police met all the criteria: They have a fully staffed full-time mounted unit and “an outstanding facility,” Grager said.

Mendez said his department talked with the Pennsylvania State Police, but they weren’t interested: The horses are too big for them.

While the horses themselves will be donated, the New Jersey State Police will pay $25,000 for various items of accompanying equipment, including a four-horse trailer, saddles, a hayrack, a generator and a pressure washer. The money will go to the Lancaster City Police Foundation, which has underwritten the Mounted Unit and covered its costs over the years.

City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday endorsing the arrangement. With that accomplished, the transfer can take place within days, Mendez said. Angus, Jake and King could be back on patrol not long after that, “hopefully without much of a hiccup,” Grager said.

Supporters of the Mounted Unit have urged the city to reconsider disbanding it, citing the benefit to the city’s image and to police and community morale. A petition drive in support of it remaining active collected thousands of signatures.

Chief Mendez acknowledged the strength of feeling. It was truly a hard decision, he said, but it is just not viable for the mounted unit to continue.

In 2022, patrol officers responded to 580 calls on average, versus 43 for mounted officers. Given the department’s staffing shortage, and the unlikelihood that it will be remedied anytime soon, it would be unfair to allow that disparity to continue, he said.

“The needs of the community have changed,” he said. “It was a decision we felt we had to make.”