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Buy a Police Dog to Support Police Dogs

A local veterinarian was inspired to help raise funds for the Santa Cruz Police canine unit and the dogs are quickly being snapped up.

It takes two Santa Cruz Police officers 20 or 30 minutes to search a building.

Lobo and Niko can do it in seven.

They are the department's canine stars, two dogs that do work humans can't do. Lobo sniffed out a knife used in a robbery that was buried in the sand. He also got a jail escapee to surrender quickly and peacefully at Lighthouse Point, when it would have been more dangerous for officers to do it.

Highly trained and disciplined, the dogs are an important tool for local police, but they are expensive, costing $6,500 to buy, $6,000 to train and then $14,000 a year for food, twice-weekly training sessions and bulletproof vests.

They also have cars that are outfitted with fans to keep the dogs cool, computers that can turn up the air conditioning if the dog is alone in the car and doors that trigger like something out of a James Bond movie. An officer in danger can press his remote control and the door flies open and a dog bursts out.

After seeing other departments sell toys to help fund police dogs, Westside Animal Hospital owner David Shuman decided to try the same thing for Santa Cruz Police.

"I know the value of a police dog," said Shuman, who was born in Israel and got to play with off-duty police dogs on the beach. "When they are working, they are working and God help the bad guy. When they took off the collar, they turned into puppies."

For a while, police dogs were thought to be too expensive for the department, but Chief Kevin Vogel expanded the program because the benefits in saving the lives of officers and apprehending criminals quickly were worth the cost.

"In police work, canines are a game changer often de-escalating situations that have real potential to go sideways," said Vogel.

Residents of Watsonville thought police dogs were so important, they raised funds themselves with a nonprofit community group to pay for them.

Shuman wants to do the same, helping by selling these soft, cute stuffed animals to raise money to support Niko and Lobo.

Without publicity he's already collected $2,100 from people buying at his hospital.

Sgt. Warren Barry, who was a dog officer and now heads the unit, is looking for more ways to sell the stuffed animals, such as letting kids take pictures in police cars with them.

Barry's dog Dani, who lived to be 14, was celebrated around the department. For Barry, Dani was a partner at work and a family member at home.

Canine officers make a serious commitment to their jobs, caring for their four-legged partners and going to twice-weekly trainings to keep their skills sharp.

"It is the most rewarding, challenging...it's just an incredible opportunity," said Barry of his time with Dani.

You can buy the dogs at the Westside Animal Hospital, 411 Laurel Street for a $10 tax free donation.

Brent Ainsworth November 20, 2012 at 04:07 PM
K9 units dogs and their handlers are considered by many chiefs as “police force multipliers” because they enhance officer safety and pose a viable deterrent in dicey situations. Up here in Novato, there was a community-led effort to save the PD's canine program and last year it was expanded despite reductions in PD personnel. Check out how it happened: http://patch.com/A-ktJg
Lisa November 20, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I bet Bookshop would be happy to sell these little puppies!

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