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Auction for police horses closes Thursday

With one day left to bid, seven highly trained San Diego police horses were fetching anywhere from $6,100 to $10,600 in an online auction designed to help raise money for the cash-strapped city.

Wam, Trigger, Major, Junior, Bret, Bandit and Austin, who have been used to patrol Balboa Park and are accustomed to crowds, traffic and loud noises, are being sold, along with their tack, on publicsurplus.com until Thursday, when the auction is scheduled to close.

The San Diego Police Department, which is disbanding its horse unit after more than 25 years, said the horses range in age from 5 to 16.

As of early Wednesday, Junior, a 5-year-old Draft Cross gelding, has drawn 82 bids, with the highest bid at $10,600. The second most sought-after police horse is Bret, a 12-year-old Percheron/Draft Cross gelding, who has drawn 77 bids, with the highest bid so far at $8,500.

The remaining five police horses have received between 49 and 65 bids each, with the highest ranging from $6,100 and $8,100.

Selling the horses is expected to save the city about $243,000 annually in upkeep, San Diego police Assistant Chief Bob Kanaski told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

A grassroots fund-raising effort to save the horse unit has netted about $30,000 but city officials said Tuesday the auction will not be stopped, the newspaper reported.

About a third of the department’s dogs are also being laid off as a result of mid-year budget cuts approved by the City Council. But unlike the horses, police dogs cannot be sold to the public because of their specialized training.

Seven dogs recently went home with their handlers, three went to other law enforcement agencies and two were sent back to their vendors, Kanaski told the Union-Tribune.

In December, the council approved a proposal by Mayor Jerry Sanders to lay off about 200 city workers, cut library hours and end or scale back some public-safety programs to help solve San Diego’s $179 budget shortfall. Police horse and canine patrols were among the casualties.