ALTON — K9 officers are seen by their handlers as partners and family members. Police departments look to K9s as fellow officers and instruments on the street.
To veterinarian Steve Pope of Pope Animal Hospital, the working dogs in uniform are patients and clients. Pope decided to take extra precautions to protect his hardest-working clients by donating life-saving emergency kits to officers to aid injured K9s.
“These kits will provide almost everything the officer will need to buy time to get their K9s to an emergency clinic,” Pope said. “The kits have supplies for the K9 if they’re hit by a car, or even in gunshot and knife wound situations. Inside the kits are some minimal surgical equipment and medications that can help in trauma or even drug-related emergencies. I’m going over all of the items in the kit with the officers to explain when and how to use them.”
Just as with their human counterparts, the first minutes after an emergency are the most crucial in taking life-saving measures. Pope said he hopes that by donating the kits, he can give the officers the needed tools to give their K9s a fighting chance in the event of an emergency.
“These dogs are officers, too,” Pope said. “They are police officers just as their handlers are. You can ask the officers receiving these kits, they’ll tell you the same; the dogs are doing their jobs and doing their part for the community. If it’s two or three in the morning and something happens, they may not be able to get right into the office or if the dog is going into shock, they can help get the life-saving process going. That will really increase the chance of survival for the dogs.”
The Alton and Wood River police departments each sent two K9s and their handlers to receive Pope’s emergency kit. Wood River sent officer Chris Alfaro with K9 Ordi and Michael Young with K9 Degen. Alton Officer Brian Brenner is the handler of K9 Kenzo and new K9 partners Mike Morelli and Jax are still attending the K9 academy for training.
“These kits are far more involved than we expected; they’re fantastic,” Brenner said. “We didn’t expect all of this when he (Dr. Pope) said he wanted to set us up with emergency kits for our dogs. We can’t thank him enough for putting these together. Everything is so organized, detailed and ready to go if we need them. In emergency situations all the way down to a bee sting, these kits could save our dog’s life. We really want to thank Dr. Pope for them.”
Pope has had more than 30 years of experience working with and treating police K9s at his office at 3300 E. Broadway. For information, call (618) 462-0511.