What happens to police K-9s at the end of their career? This bill is trying to make sure they're taken care of

Posted at 10:07 PM, Oct 26, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- They come in all shapes and sizes, doing a job they've been trained to do their entire life.

Law enforcement K-9s are now considered an essential part of any police department or sheriff's office.

"So far, he's had multiple finds, some up to two kilos of methamphetamine at a time, so I believe he's definitely putting in his work," Officer Macaulay Fable with the Colonial Heights Police Department said. "There hasn't been a shift yet since I've gotten him that he hasn't been with me."

"With the narcotics that he's taken off the roads, I believe he's saved lots of lives. Those narcotics never hit our streets," Cpl. Sean Norman with the Chesterfield County Police said.

"K9s are force multipliers. They allow us to do more with less and in today's climate, budget cuts, things of that nature, I think they really show their worth," Jerry Bradshaw, the owner of Tarheel K-9 Training, said.

What happens to K-9s at the end of their career? This bill is trying to make sure they're taken care of

The decision to partner with a K-9 is made strictly by the handler.

"I think there is no better partner to have out here as a police officer, out here protecting the public and saving lives," Norman said.

"Oh, it's been great, best decision I've ever made to put in for K-9," Fable said.

However, the handler's job doesn't end when the shift is over.

"That is your partner. He comes home with you. You take care of him. I always know where he is, he's a huge responsibility and it just adds another level to my work," Fable said. "It's hard to put the bond into words. It's when you spend so much time with your partner, it's just something that builds and it's not something easily replaceable."

"Honestly, K-9 handlers probably spend more time with their dogs than they do with their families," Norman said.

What happens to K-9s at the end of their career? This bill is trying to make sure they're taken care of

It's an investment that some say pays off many times over the initial cost.

"Definitely makes law enforcement more efficient, also makes law enforcement much safer," Bradshaw said.

While the K-9 serves their department, the department takes care of the K-9.

"As our dogs are employed with the police department, the police department covers all food and medical expenses and care expenses for our dogs," Norman said.

The one major difference between the officer and the K-9 is when it comes time to retire.

"We have a retirement system for us. That's not the case for the dogs when they retire. The handler takes all the responsibility," Norman said.

This additional responsibility is something the K-9 officers have to take into consideration before accepting the partner into their lives.

"It is something obviously me and my wife have sat down and talked about and accepted. Just like, owning a dog but it's a little different because he's been a part of the force," Fable said.

What happens to K-9s at the end of their career? This bill is trying to make sure they're taken care of

K-9 officers are tasked with caring for their former partners after the dog is retired and those medical bills can quickly add up.

"I think that it's incumbent upon us, as an industry, to really take care of those heroes," Bradshaw said.

"These are police officers, they are K-9 officers and I believe we should support them. So we've sponsored this bill, it's modeled after one that was recently passed in Florida," Delegate Mike Cherry said.

Cherry said that the bill is designed to create a fund that will provide up to $1,500 per retired K-9 per year for medical expenses.

K-9 handlers said that they understood the long-term commitment they were in for when they signed up.

There are several local organizations, like the non-profit Chesterfield County Police K-9 Association, that fundraise for retired K-9s to help offset high medical bills and food.

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