Scott County Commission: K-9 officer Rex to retire with former handler

Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 5:24 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2022 at 9:02 AM CST
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BENTON, Mo. (KFVS) - He served Scott County for seven years. Now, this K-9 will retire and live with his former handler after a decision by Scott County Commissioners.

Rex, a trained German Shepherd, went from retired, to unretired and back to retired in a matter of hours on Tuesday, December 13.

The day began with Scott County Sheriff Wes Drury announcing the 9-year-old K-9 would stay on with the department, but roughly two hours later, the county commission overruled that decision by a unanimous vote.

Now, Rex is back home with his former handler, Hunter Juden, a place he’s called home for the past 3.5 years.

In addition to wanting Rex home with him, Juden feels Rex is at the end of his service...
In addition to wanting Rex home with him, Juden feels Rex is at the end of his service expectancy and is aging out of service.(KFVS)

The decision came after Juden’s resignation, Rex’s announced retirement and an outpouring of support from the community.

“The only way to take care of this K-9 is to return him to someone that’s familiar with him,” Drew Juden said. He’s talking about his son Hunter’s reunion with his old partner, Rex.

Hunter Juden now works for the Cape Girardeau Police Department and was asked not to speak about the situation, but his dad said it’s clear how people in Scott County feel about the longtime K-9 officer retiring with his former handler.

“The community is behind their law enforcement, one, and two, it’s behind their K-9 program, and they have the interest of the K-9 at heart,” he said.

You could see that interest on Tuesday morning at the Scott County Commissioners meeting.

Dozens packed a Scott County courtroom to express their opinions on what should happen to K-9 Rex.

It was an emotional crowd. Many said they believe nine-year-old Rex should be retired and live out the rest of his days with Juden.

Scott County Commissioners are holding their regularly scheduled meeting. They were expected to discuss the fate of Scott County Sheriff's K-9 officer Rex.

Scott County Sheriff Wes Drury had a differing opinion.

About 90 minutes before the meeting, Sheriff Drury announced K-9 officer Rex would not be retired, but remain in service.

In his released statement, Drury said Rex’s trainer evaluated the police dog and believes he can still perform his duties.

Drury said he appreciates the interest the public has in where Rex would live in his retirement, including two of his past handlers.

During the meeting, Hunter Juden addressed the board regarding Rex’s future.

“I was told by the trainer and by the sheriff that I would be the last handler of Rex,” he said.

Juden also pointed out Rex’s age and past training would limit his service, and the county should consider investing in a new K-9 instead.

Also at the meeting, the local woman who gathered more than 12,000 signatures online to keep Rex with the person who knows him best.

“We got to be Rex’s voice,” Amberlee LaFerney said. “He can’t speak for himself, so I’m glad people were able to speak for him.”

“Rex is just part of the community, he’s one of us,” LaFerney continued.

It didn’t take long for the three-member board to announce their decision.

The Scott County Board voted unanimously to give Rex to his former handler.

Hunter Juden picked the dog up late Tuesday morning and took him home.

It’s not clear if Sheriff Drury will try to challenge the commission’s order.

If he does, the county’s prosecuting attorney said she’s confident the commission is within its legal right to award custody of Rex to Hunter Juden.

“This could end up in court and it could end up for a judge to decide, but I believe, based on what the commission heard today as well as the research that we’ve done in regard to K-9 Rex, his service, other K-9s across the state of Missouri and the training going forward, I think that the commission is supported in their decision, and I think they’re within their legal bounds,” Amanda Oesch, Scott County prosecutor, said.

We reached out to Sheriff Drury for comment and he released one on Wednesday morning. In a statement Drury said he was going to “seek the lawful return of canine Rex.”