VERNON COUNTY, Wis. – There's a new sheriff in Vernon County, but he's not your typical law enforcement officer.
“He's the smarter one,” said Deputy Sheriff Jay Vosseteig. “That's for sure.”
Weighing in at 1,200 hundred pounds, the county’s newest deputy sheriff is Leon, an 8-year old Quarter horse.
Together with his partner in crime, Vosseteig, they make the first mounted patrol unit Vernon County's had in decades.
“I had been a deputy for about 23 years, a part-time deputy, and with my interest in horses, I thought it’d be kind of fun to put the two together,” said Vosseteig.
Vosseteig is also Leon's owner and cares for all of his living and feeding expenses.
When the county needs his services it will lease the horse and pay for it out of the part-time budget, meaning no extra costs to taxpayers.
“This is a way to enhance our services at no additional cost,” said Vernon County Sheriff John Spears.
Spears said the duo provides real benefits to the community, that the traditional squad car patrol unit can't.
“On any given weekend, we have a lot of local people as well as visitors to Vernon County that utilize the horse trails, and some of these are in very, very remote areas,” said Spear.
“This will give us an opportunity to have a law enforcement presence in those remote areas and to provide a service to them.”
“On a horse I'm actually a 10-feet tall police officer, and I'm able to be seen and see what's going on,” said Vosseteig.
Leon’s tameness and keen sense of his surroundings made him a perfect candidate for the job.
“I can just sometimes feel in his body that he's cueing in on something, and sure enough, if I pay attention, we'll find it,” said Vosseteig.
While duty always comes first, Vosseteig said there are some fun perks to being a mounted patrol officer.
“I’m living the dream,” said Vosseteig. “Doing something I enjoy along with something I'm interested in --being a deputy sheriff.”
Leon is, in fact, a deputy sheriff. That means if anyone assaults the horse, the act can be considered a felony.