K9 fundraiser: Casualty course trains officers to aid dogs

Dover Police Department Cpl. Robert Barrett and K9 Reeko are a crimefighting duo. Submitted photos/Dover Police

OCEAN VIEW — Dogs get hurt too, just like people.

Especially in sometimes rough law enforcement work, where wound care may be critical to survival.

That’s why the Ocean View Police Department and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 16 are so committed to properly training officers on how to care for their K9 partners in needy times.

The Sussex County crime-fighters are currently raising funds to cover the $25,000 cost of a Tactical Canine Casualty Course tentatively scheduled for October. The Veterinary Tactical Group of Vass, North Carolina will administer the sessions, which it did here in 2016.

Ocean View PD Chief Kenneth McLaughlin and Cpl. Justin Hopkins are spearheading the effort for what’s known as a rewarding program. Cpl. Hopkins took the course two years ago and is still comfortable with applying the knowledge gained.

“I’m a cop, not a medic, and for me to be able to hold onto it for two years shows it’s being presented in a way that can be easily digested and retained,” Cpl. Hopkins said.

Dover Police Department Master Cpl. Bernardo Fioravaniti is shown with law enforcement partner K9 Gerome. Submitted photo/Dover Police

Besides Ocean View, other police agencies projected to take part include Capitol, University of Delaware, Milford, New Castle County, Dover, Bridgeville, Smyrna, DNREC, Newport, Middletown, State, Wilmington, Newark, Laurel, Lewes and Harrington. The goal is for 50 K9 teams to experience the course.

Veterinarian Janice Baker, who owns VTG, remembers the 27 police K9 handlers from Delaware as a welcoming audience in 2016.

“It was probably at the time the most engaged class we’d ever had,” she remembered. “Based on the questions they asked and the feedback we received I think they really got a lot out of it. It was a great class, everyone was enthusiastic.

“We brought a so-called ‘Dream Team’ of five instructors and it went over quite well.”

Ms. Baker said police are taught to apply their training applied to humans to the dogs they partner with.

“With a few modifications in terms of anatomy they can apply those same skills to their dogs,” Ms. Baker said.

A pre-plan of where to take wounded dogs is essential to any K9 care, since veterinarians aren’t always readily available at times, Ms. Baker said. Also key is the capability to stop bleeding, determine if transport is needed and how, and knowledge of entire law enforcement team on how to respond “when a dog is down,” Ms. Baker said.

The sessions are billed as a “two-day hands-on intensive training focusing on treatment of police working dog emergencies in the field.

“The course incorporates current Tactical Combat Casualty Care guidelines with K9 specific anatomy and physiology to provide the most up-to-date lifesaving information available for police working dogs.

“Training includes multiple interactive, casualty response situations in simulated tactical environments, using canine mannequins and other realistic training aids in dynamic scenarios.”

VTG presents about 20 classes annually throughout the nation, and has also traveled to Australia and Canada, among other countries, Ms. Baker said.

Ocean View PD has scheduled a fundraising “Ales for Tales” event on Saturday, Aug. 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 16 Mile Brewery at 413 S. Bedford Street in Georgetown. Sponsorships are being sought. For more information, contact Cpl. Hopkins at 539-1111 or justin.hopkins@cj.state.de.us.

Spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman described police K9’s as “essential partners in our law enforcement mission in the City of Dover.

“They provide the ability to conduct narcotics and explosives searches, building searches, track suspects/missing persons, apprehend fleeing suspects and much more. Not only do they help us in our mission to protect the public, but they are also essential to our officer’s safety.

“They truly enjoy coming to work every day but we know that does not come without some risk. Learning valuable information to protect and provide aid to our K9’s is important to protect their lives and the public’s investment in them as a law enforcement partner.”

Stressful, pressurized learning

Speaking generally, Superfit Canine founder Eric Darling said training should be conducted with the attendees under duress. His Ridley Park, Pennsylvania-based organization facilitates those perceived circumstances during events.

“We make it chaotic and high stress because that’s the way it happens in real life,” he said. “We simulate the noise and the personal distractions that often come with the situation (in law enforcement responses.”

Wound care treatment and evaluation are emphasized, so an officer can identify how to rapidly respond to an injurious incident. Understanding wounds allows police to determine whether to transport a K-9 for treatment, administer on-site care or who to call in for medical assistance.

“The teaching includes how to pack a wound, understand what to do with a stab wound, if a bullet goes through or a bullet is lodged,” Mr. Darling said.

Officers are outfitted in their standard uniforms and carry all equipment except for a firearm, according to Mr. Darling. The program uses real and simulated dogs.

While he didn’t have statistical information on injury trends, Mr. Darling said, “unfortunately it’s becoming all too often that K9s are injured by suspects with weapons. Also, trailing dogs may impale themselves while looking for suspects or on their trail.”

Preplanning is essential, too, including small scale pack and wrap materials and coagulants that can make a huge difference, Mr. Darling said, along with contacting a hospital or medical facility prior to an operation getting underway.

Positive reviews from police generally result, Mr. Darling said.

“We get a lot of responses of ‘Oh my gosh, I had no idea’ (the extent of training and education available.)”

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