K-9 association raises money for police dogs

Man’s best friend can also be man’s best line of defense during times of crisis, as witnessed last year by students as police dogs were used to sniff out a potential bomb threat on the Santa Monica College main campus.

The tough dog contest was the highlight of the K-9 Demonstration at Corsair Field on Saturday, organized by the Los Angeles County Police Canine Association (LACPCA). Over a dozen dogs were directed by their K-9 handlers to chase and apprehend a decoy suspect with their powerful jaws. The winner, Jori, was determined by audience applause.

The four-legged crime-fighters also navigated obstacle courses, cornered other decoy suspects, and participated in vehicle pursuits. Multiple officers exhibited their dogs to visitors, answered questions, and provided information about their canine partners.

The event was a fundraiser for LACPCA in an effort to alleviate some of the financial burden from K-9 officers who sometimes pay out of pocket to train their animal partners.

Most of the dogs are German Shepherds or Belgian Shepherds imported from Europe, which can cost $10,000 to purchase and another $5,000 to train. Officers are selected by their departments and are then trained for five weeks or so with the animal they are assigned.

That is when bonding occurs between dog and handler. The majority of the dogs live with the police officers to whom they are assigned.

“When I play ball with my dog, I always let him have the ball after some time. My dog needs to trust me,” said Redondo Police K9 Officer Dan Richey as he answered questions from the public in the shade of the parking garage.

According to Richey, dependable and consistent conduct is essential for a good working relationship with his canine partner, Blitz.

Training continues throughout the working life of the K-9 and is essential because the dogs regularly find themselves in high velocity situations that involve a lot of physical dangers and maneuvers. The stressful environment can often make the animal’s behavior unpredictable.

When K9’s corner a suspect, they are trained to not make contact as long as the suspect stands still. Or if the suspect is still fleeing, they can knock them down without even using their teeth. But bites still happen.

Retired police sergeant Louis Castle said that the dogs he trains disengage their bite from the suspect on verbal command.

“But it doesn’t happen as often as it should” he said.

Some agencies prefer to remove the K9 physically from the bite, rather than use a verbal command. During the contest demonstration for toughest dog, K9 officers repeatedly pried their canine partners off a bite suit equipped decoy. The decoy admitted that he felt sore after these demonstrations even with the bite suit.

Castle said that there are very few instances of apprehended suspects being bitten so badly that they require an overnight stay at a hospital.

“They are usually treated with antiseptic and approved for booking,” he said. The mere presence of K-9 dogs have been known to dissuade some suspects that were previously ready to fight.

Before the canine cavalry flush suspects out of a building, several advance notices are given over a loudspeaker warning anyone that a police dog will be turned loose to find them if they do not stand down.

Of course, there will always be the lingering risk of a potential bite when working with canines. But these furry agents of the law are essential for the successful apprehension of some suspects and for keeping the peace in neighborhoods and streets.