Canine First Aid Important Training for Law Enforcement Officers
By Anna Gallegos
Learning to find a pulse and perform chest compressions on their four-legged partners is not exactly standard police training, but it was important to the police officers and sheriff's deputies who practiced those skills Tuesday.
The voluntary training gave K-9 handlers from the Oakland Police Department, the Redwood City Police Department, the Dos Palos Police Department and other Northern California public safety agencies the chance to learn emergency medical techniques that could save the lives of the dogs that serve with them.
"The (officers) are going to be first responders, really," said Geri Schmutz, a volunteer with the Police & Working K-9 Foundation who volunteered her dogs to take part in the training. "Anything that happens to the officers can happen to (the dogs)."
Just like their law enforcement officer partners, K-9s have been shot at and exposed to narcotics on the job. It's unlikely that paramedics or other first responders would be able to help with canine trauma since their training and priority is helping humans, Schmutz said.
The training, held in Oakland by the foundation and Pet Food Express, helped officers learn what to do in the few critical minutes after an animal is hurt, time that could decide whether they live or die.
The officers received hands-on training to learn how to apply splints and bandages to live dogs and practiced CPR on dummy dogs with the help of volunteer veterinarians.
These skills are not taught to K-9 handlers in most police departments because of financial constraints, said Steve LeCouve, president of the Police & Working K-9 Foundation.
"When I was a handler, there was nothing like this, and we wanted to change that," said LeCouve, who is a Sacramento County Sheriff's deputy. Without the emergency training, many critically injured dogs have to wait until they are able to see a vet.
As a deputy, LeCouve wants to be able to save the dogs' lives, but he also wants to protect a valuable crime-fighting asset. "They're a community resource," he said.
An untrained K-9 can cost as much as $10,000, and most police departments have at least three people to train it. After paying the initial cost and at least three salaries, little money is left over to pay for dog emergencies, LeCouve said.
"Why wouldn't you want to protect that investment?" LeCouve asked.
The nonprofit foundation also donates bulletproof vests for the animals and heat alarms for police cars that transport K-9s so the dogs don't get overheated.
The 50 officers receiving training Tuesday were given the animal equivalent of first aid kits so that they did not have to enter the field unprepared.
The enrollment for the one-day course was smaller than the normal 70 handlers, according to the foundation, but there was a waiting list for an upcoming session in Sacramento.
For many that signed up, the care for the dogs extend beyond protecting police property.
"These dogs are like family, and for some, it's their children," LeCouve said.