A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Sep 10, 2011

Law Enforcement Dogs Are Not Bullet Proof - A Thought for 9/11

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Police dogs risk their lives in the line of duty every day.

Kane, a police dog was mortally stabbed in Washington,  Gunner was stabbed in Memphis, Zac was stabbed in Australia, Solo was shot in Wisconsin and New Zealand lists dozens of dogs killed while on duty. All over the globe dogs are asked to apprehend suspects, search for explosives, go to war in Afghanistan and even assist in the capture of Bin Laden, often without any protective gear.

Occasionally, a philanthropist or concerned citizen will provide bullet proof vests for dogs in their communities. Such is the case for four lucky dogs in the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation is awarding grants like this to police and fire departments in cities located where the Steelers are scheduled to play away games.

It seems to me that outfitting dogs with vests and other gear should be mandatory if law enforcement is permitted to use them. Dogs often go into a dangerous situation first, are sent, without their human partners, into spaces too small for humans, and are asked to subdue armed felons with no defensive protection for themselves. Instead of mourning the lives of slain canine officers and erecting monuments of their likenesses, why not give them basic protection before putting them in harm's way. Frankly, not doing so seems, negligent, crazy and cruel. Thousands of dollars and hours are expended on training and preparing these canine assets only for some bureaucrat to "cheap out" on a vest. The vests should be provided by the law enforcement agency hiring the dog so all dogs are covered rather than having them "rely on the kindness of strangers". No protection- no dog must be the new rule.

Finally, as we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11, remember the victims, pay tribute to the responders and commiserate with loved ones suddenly bereaved, we must also acknowledge the working dogs that responded to ground zero and continue to assist law enforcement at airports, borders, police and fire departments in their efforts to keep us all safer-usually without vests.

Article first published as Police Dogs Get Shot Too on Technorati.

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