Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thinking of Adding A K9 Unit: What You Should Know

The are multiple benefits to having a K9 unit in any police department.  K9s are more agile and have a significantly better sense of smell than humans.  This makes them more efficient at clearing buildings, tracking suspects or missing persons, seeking out drugs or explosives, and even locate accelerants in arson investigations.  However, there is a lot more to starting a K9 unit than having a large police vehicle and getting a dog.

There is a significant start up cost involved in starting a K9 unit.  Initial start up costs include purchasing a dog, equipment, proper transportation, food, vets, and training.  So, what can you look to spend?

  • The Dog - Purchase of a pre-trained adult dog will range between $4500-$15,000.  Reputable vendors will have warranties with their dogs, such as replacement if the dog develops a health issue or is deemed not to be a good fit within a few months of purchase.
  • The Vehicle - You can either purchase a vehicle specifically built for K9 units (which are going to cost slightly more than standard SUVs or cruisers).  These vehicles come with installed kennels, rear cooling systems, spill proof water dishes, heat alarms, and automatic door openers.  These items are essential for keeping your dog safe while in the vehicle (both with an officer and without), and allows the dog to be released from the vehicle in an officer distress.
  • The Vet - K9s are exposed to many more dangers than a common household pet.  They can be exposed to excessive heat/cold and they can be injured in the line of duty (such as through stabbings or gun shot wounds).  It is important that a 24-hour veterinarian who has experience in police dogs is a necessity.
  • The Training - Most K9s will come pre-trained by the company you purchase them from.  However, it is necessary at purchase to train your handler.  This makes sure that the dog and the handler are a good match and that all training the dog has previously received is understood.  K9s also require continuous training, similar to that of officers, to keep their skills fresh.
  • The Handler - Although this officer will still perform regular duties, they will also be required to take full responsibility for the K9.  Many departments have K9s live with their handlers (which is also recommended by many trainers).  If you do not currently have a member of your department who can devote both their on-duty and off-duty time to a K9, you will need to bring on an additional member as a K9 Handler.
It is also important to remember that there are going to be significant costs in maintaining a K9 unit as well. There are obvious expenses such as vehicle maintenance and well-check vet visits.  Often overlooked costs include the extra pay for the handler (as they are working a 24/7/365 job) and dog replacement.  Police dogs are generally around 2 years of age at the time of purchase; on average they are retired around 7-10 years of age.  This means approximately every five years you will need to replace your K9s.  Also, as they age, they are more likely to be prone to health issues (because of the breeds often used, they are prone to hip and knee issues as they age).

However, there are grant opportunities available for the purchase of K9s.  Grants vary on a state-by-state basis, but can significantly off-set the initial and follow-up costs.

If you are willing to dedicated the finances, time, and training to a K9, more information regarding K9 programs can be found through the US Police Canine Association and the North American Police Work Dog Association.  You should also talk with a local department about their experiences as well.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen a lot of K9's at perth dog training facility. These dogs can be reliable for protection and safety.