As we continue to grieve the loss of K9 Edo, we are unfortunately left with many questions about the circumstances surrounding his death. This is especially hard for his handler and his family as they continue to mourn. As an agency, we are grateful for the outpouring of support received from this community both during the search and after the terrible news of his passing. Our Canine Unit considers their canines a full-time partner, a friend, and a member of their family.
In that light, the members of our Canine Unit are concerned about comments on our social media channels questioning the at-home care of these valuable members of our agency, specifically the use of kennels. Our canine handlers are members of the Unites States Police Canine Association (USPCA), and follow their guidelines for the training and handling of their dogs. Our Sheriff frequently states that an educated community is a safe community, and your understanding of how police service dogs work and live is important to our Agency.
Just like people, every police service dog (PSD) has a different temperament. The topics for consideration listed below are standard for every police service dog. It would be important to recognize that there are exceptions to every standard, and for that reason, evaluating each dog’s needs is part of the handler’s responsibility when deciding on a suitable living situation. The canine handler’s supervisor also inspects the living arrangements to provide guidance and suggestions.
Our PSDs are high-drive dogs that like to chase, catch, and bite or retrieve objects and then be somewhat possessive of that object. In addition, they are superiorly confident, very curious, and always hunting for things they value. Generally, these traits do not allow the dog to calm down when at home, and unless kenneled they will constantly strive to satisfy the attributes they were selected for as a PSD (hunt, chase, possess). The decision to house a PSD in a properly sized kennel or enclosure at home provides the canine valuable privacy to rest. “Rest for a PSD is important because of the stress and excitement consistently encountered at work,” states Dr. David “Lou” Ferland, Executive Director of the United States Police Association. “While it is not unusual to have a dog freely roaming inside the house while attended to by its handler, it is also not unusual to have a private and dedicated kennel space for the dog to rest and de-stress for its next upcoming assignment.”
Police Service Dogs are pack-oriented, usually accepting the handler as the “Alpha” and seeing themselves as second in command. For some PSDs, this can create conflict when receiving commands from or interacting with other members of the family in the absence of the handler. Many working dogs will interact socially with family members, but will not obey them – leading to potentially dangerous situations.
Sergeant Aaron Peterman, Canine Supervisor for the Lakeland Police Department, states it best when talking about kenneling a PSD. “Predictable is preventable”, states Sergeant Peterman. “As an agency, we prefer kenneling to not only avoid conflicts or unexpected situations created by roaming freely around the house, but to also allow the working dog the opportunity to rest and unwind.”
Our canine teams (handler and dog) train together, work together, and live together. It is a lifetime bond that few are lucky enough to experience. We value the trust our community has in us to care for our canine partners, with their health and safety in mind. We are conducting our own internal inquiry, parallel to the North Port Police Department’s in the hopes of determining any actions we can take to prevent future tragedies.
Prepared by Katie Heck
Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office