Westport police are welcoming a new officer to their ranks: "Chase," a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever who previously was a service dog for Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Officer James Baker will be Chase's handler and they have been training together since last December. After their expected certification this month, they will join Officer Jim Loomer and Koda, the department's other police service dog. The new dog will bring the K-9 unit back to full strength following the retirement of Ellie, the department's bloodhound.

Chase will be used to help locate lost or missing people, as well as criminal suspects; detecting illegal drugs, searching buildings without the need for as many officers, protecting officers from harm, and giving demonstrations for civic groups and community gatherings.

The Westport police K-9 unit has never operated with a formal budget, according to police officials, since it was established in the late 1980s. Most of the support has come from community donations, particularly longtime supporters Dr. Joan Poster of the Poster Animal Hospital and Bill Mitchell of Mitchell's of Westport.

Police said that with the acquisition of Chase, the department is seeking donations from the public to help defray the cost of his purchase, training and care.

To help offset the expenses, the Trap Falls Kennel Club has set up a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $10,500. AKC Reunite, an affiliate of the American Kennel Club, will also provide matching funds of up to $5,000. The GoFundMe page can be found at: http://www.gofundme.com/oge6gc.

Any money raised in excess of the goal will be used for future K-9 unit expenses.

"Police K-9s provide an invaluable service to the communities they work in," Chris Sweetwood of the Trap Falls Kennel Club said in a news release about the fundraising effort. "We encourage dog lovers in Connecticut to pitch in and keep the K-9 units healthy and strong in our state. Please donate what you can to ensure our community has this vital resource that helps our police officers and citizens stay safe."

The club previously has supported campaigns to bring police K-9s to departments in Newtown, Orange and Monroe.