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Police service animal force to have its own memorial

Updated on June 2, 2013

Our furred friends and police partners

Initiated by the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA), the planning, funding and infrastructure for the eventual construction of a National Law Enforcement Animals Memorial site in Washington, D.C. is a work-in-progress.

Ray Allen Manufacturing (RAM), touted as the nation's premiere canine equipment supply repository, marketing a product line exclusively for the canine industry, predominantly catering to police and military organizations' canine needs, is positioned to serve as an impetus for such a memorial. As such, RAM has spearheaded the efforts to bring to fruition a national monument to pay homage to public safety service animals.

"The first phase of this endeavor is to put together a list of K-9's, horses, and any other certified law enforcement animal that has died in the line of duty. We don't want to leave any animals out," is stated on USPCA's website. "The purpose of the memorial is to honor just the animals that died in that way - not from old age or health, but while being engaged in the job."

Akin to human counterparts, police service animals are statutorily recognized

Albeit disparate with regard to species, police service animals are afforded one thing in-common with their human counterparts, commonly referred to as "handlers" (human officer working in-tandem with his/her canine partner) or "riders" (human officer mounted atop a police service horse), and that one particular commonality is the statutorily-recognized status as a "sworn law enforcement official".

In most states in America, it is classified as a felony if one were to murder a police service animal. Endemically, all animal cruelty statutes apply, with caveat recognition that the victim-animal is a sworn law enforcement officer and was "harmed" in the line of duty.

With slight variation, the gist of each state's legislated penalties for offenses against police service animals outline the specialty inclusions versus those statutes delineating laws against animal cruelty/abuses.

As such, each police service animal is accorded his/her own officially-recognized badge, often worn pinned abreast its service sweater (canines) and tack equipment (horses).

Similar to their human counterparts, police canines are often outfitted with specially-crafted ballistic vests to protect them against attacks from those criminal elements wielding weapons.

Police service animals don their own official badge

Tampa police corporal K. Doan and his police service animal, partner "Kilo", train, work, and reside together. When on-duty, "Kilo" dons an official police badge affixed to outer police garment, typically a light sweater or nylon-fabricated harness.
Tampa police corporal K. Doan and his police service animal, partner "Kilo", train, work, and reside together. When on-duty, "Kilo" dons an official police badge affixed to outer police garment, typically a light sweater or nylon-fabricated harness. | Source

Mounted police officers are largely unheralded yet serve their communities greatly, especially when crowd control measures are necessary, plus they serve as a p

Mounted police officers in-service at National Police Week 2013, held May 11-18, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Police horses are largely unheralded yet serve greatly as public relations tools, especially among children, and are used for crowd control.
Mounted police officers in-service at National Police Week 2013, held May 11-18, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Police horses are largely unheralded yet serve greatly as public relations tools, especially among children, and are used for crowd control. | Source
Members of the Plymouth Police Department, Mass., stand at attention in gauntlet fashion to honor one of their own, K-9 "Kaiser", who was clambering into a veterinary clinic to be put down. Kaiser suffered countless days on duty with kidney disease.
Members of the Plymouth Police Department, Mass., stand at attention in gauntlet fashion to honor one of their own, K-9 "Kaiser", who was clambering into a veterinary clinic to be put down. Kaiser suffered countless days on duty with kidney disease. | Source
The California Police Dog Memorial is seen on the campus of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: "Faithful Partner".
The California Police Dog Memorial is seen on the campus of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: "Faithful Partner". | Source
The Utah Law Enforcement Memorial, located near the Capital Building, has several bronze statues, one of which is a policewoman and her K-9 partner on duty
The Utah Law Enforcement Memorial, located near the Capital Building, has several bronze statues, one of which is a policewoman and her K-9 partner on duty | Source
Law Enforcement Officers Memorial site in Tropical Park, Miami, Fla., is the site of this bronze statue of a police service dog. On the side wall is an etched list of police K-9s slain in Dade County, Fla.
Law Enforcement Officers Memorial site in Tropical Park, Miami, Fla., is the site of this bronze statue of a police service dog. On the side wall is an etched list of police K-9s slain in Dade County, Fla. | Source

Police service animals seek their place among the annals of the fallen

National Police Week, held in May of each year, serves to gather thousands in-unison to honor fallen law enforcement officers. At the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) site in Washington, D.C., a total of 130 more names of slain police officers were added to the blue-grey-hued marble wall.

Various events take place during this week-long commemorative event. The Police Unity Tour, comprised of law enforcement officers riding upon bicycles who pedal a 250-mile trek to the Washington, D.C. NLEOM site, do so in honor of their fallen brothers/sisters who have perished in the line of duty. Each bicyclist's journey is based on financial sponsorship to enjoin myriad others who participate, thereby accumulating funding for the survivors of fallen officers.

With the mantra "We Ride For Those Who Died", the purpose and focus of the Police Unity Tour and its participants is inherently understood

Similarly, the National Police Week 5K runners race wends throughout the downtown streets of Washington, D.C. Each year, thousands register, train, then show up to put their respective feet in-motion, all for the common cause to raise funds for fallen officers' surviving families. As well, this group of runners conjoin en masse so as to remember fallen brothers/sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Albeit present during National Police Week, police canines and police mounted horses are not as highlighted. Although a growing number of fallen police animal listings are recorded on the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), a national register of fallen law enforcement officials to include Canadian officers, more significant and deserved recognition lacks for our loyal and furred partners in the fight against crime.

The National Law Enforcement Animals Memorial seeks to remedy that deficit.

Police service animals' certification protocols

Law enforcement service animals endure often-rigorous training to be classified as a professionally-certified police service practitioner ("officer"). In several ways, police animals are utilized in specialty categories such as narcotics detection, cadaver detection, explosive-sniffing, search-and-rescue, accelerant detection, and patrol techniques (officer safety, pursuits, crowd control, etc).

Several schools exist around the country, and many more outside of the United States' borders, all inherently training police service canines in a universal fashion.

With that said, it is worthy of mention that law enforcement officers in the United States (and other countries utilizing police service animals) have adopted a widely-recognized tenet: Training and performing in "foreign language". Often enough, police canine handlers in the United States communicate with their respective dogs in German, especially when the canine is a German Shepherd breed.

If the opportunity arises, it appears safe, and/or the police handler invites and allows close-enough contact, observe and listen to the communication values between dog and handler. It is likely you will overhear German commands, followed by the dog's reaction to certain German cues.

Once a police service animal is certified in one or more areas of "specialty" (detection skills), it must re-certify in order to remain legally eligible in performance of duty and to qualify its utilization when handlers are scrutinized in legal arenas (Courts of law) regarding their animal partners.

In the event of police mounted units, horses undergo training, with its "rider" atop, in areas pertinent to particular use. For instance, police horses and human partners endure countless hours in crowd control. Theoretically, in populace areas when issues arise and crowds must be dispersed, people seem to inherently and logically capitulate when confronted by the massive, formidable size and force of a mobile, trotting horse.

Conversely, police horses are highly-skilled in search-and-rescue operations. Given their ability to navigate difficult terrains where traditional methods (automobiles) are ineffective, horses have their special place in certain realms of policing objectives.

Police service animals' line-of-duty death statistics accumulating

Year-to-date statistics regarding law enforcement service animals' line-of-duty related deaths are being more readily recorded on the Officer Down Memorial Page's K-9 section on the ODMP website. Albeit newly endeavored, slain police service animal stats are being collected and memorialized on the site. Thus far, seven police canines have been reported as slain during active duty.

ODMP is actively seeking any historical accounts of slain police service animals so as to build up their records and pay homage to our furred friends and loyal partners. A form is posted on the ODMP K-9 page for all to submit knowledge-based accounts of slain K-9s.

The latest police service canine casualty was given a full police funeral service in Massachusetts yesterday. Police officer Jamie Lebretton was on-hand to witness his fellow colleagues show up in significant numbers, all to honor a dedicated police dog who succumbed to a debilitating disease. For numerous official police operations, "Kaiser", a two-and-a-half-year-old German Shepherd, suffered through illness while forging on with police duties...until it was decided to lay him to rest.

Somewhat poigniantly amidst the sadness, a disciplined and ordered gauntlet of police officers from the jurisdictional region stood at attention, saluting, as Kaiser and his police handler, Lebretton, walked along the pathway to the veterinarian...for the final visit.

Work to be done

So, with the ongoing accumulation of historical records to be added to the currently-known data as to police service animal deaths sustained in the course of duty, is the imperative nature of funding sources, logistical components, and, of significant importance, real estate.

Perhaps the most tremendous hurdle in the scope of succeeding the project of constructing the National Law Enforcement Animals Memorial in Washington, D.C. is having a piece of land approved upon which to build. It remains hopeful that such a parcel of property for the NLEAM will be as close as possible to the existing counterparts' National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

After all, these human/animal relationships and bonds while on duty serve best when partnered. So, why not enjoin both memorial sites so as to preserve these dedicated, loyal and courageous police partnerships? To do otherwise is counter to what these partnerships stood for while serving the public. It seems only appropriate and natural to preserve such bonds and maintain the highest honors for these police service animals and their personal sacrifices.

Although quite a number of municipal, county, state, and federal-level police agencies have their own respective law enforcement memorials for slain police K-9s, it remains to be seen whereby a unified and nationally-recognized police service animals memorial is erected.

Personal and professional friendships

During the course of my career as a law enforcement officer, it took no effort to recognize and admire the strong bonds, pride and love these officer/animal relationships exude. Often rigorous in training modes, these partnerships endure the laborious tasks of physical training, tactical stratagem, and unique communication values.

Each and every occasion a K-9 unit arrived on-scene, a certain aire of confidence exuded over the arrival of absolute and formidable support. The dynamics ameliorated, whether it be the disposition of the bad guy, or the onery crowd who refused to move along; things "got done" when police service animals arrived for duty.

I look forward to the National Law Enforcement Animals Memorial in Washington, D.C. I also look forward to its marble walls being largely void of etched names of police service partners.

Deputy Matt Williams and K-9 partner "DiOGi"

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