Officers in Morris County, New Jersey, are learning how to give their injured K-9 partners first aid in a new high-tech training called the Advanced K-9 Medical Operator Program.
The Morris County Office of Emergency Management hosted the recent two-day intensive course held at the Morris County Public Safety Academy. Participants hailed from the Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit, the Morris County Office of Emergency Management’s Special Operation Group, the U.S. Secret Service K-9 unit assigned to the White House, New Jersey State Police K-9 Unit and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey K-9 Unit.
Participants learned how to render life-saving medical aid in a variety of real-world tactical situations. Scenarios included the treatment of life-threatening hemorrhaging injuries, K-9 rescue from a confined space with life-threatening injuries and treating medical emergencies, such as heat exhaustion or dehydration with an IV or camelback.
To do this, officers utilized a Belgian malinois named Diesel, a canine simulation that’s specially designed to mimic various medical situations. They worked to treat the canine’s wounds, which were sustained from a simulated bomb explosion.
“They are reassessing him now,” said Walt Nichols, a sales engineer with TacMed Solutions. “He has a rear-leg amputation. An incompressible injury they have to pack with gauze to create a clot. Now it looks like they are providing fluids because of the massive blood loss.”
Nichols was on site to assist officers with the canine device.
Another canine simulation named Teddy was used to train officers on how to remove an injured canine from an enclosed space, such as a sewer junction.
Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeff Paul said the training was necessary to protect the lives of police K-9s, who are often on the front lines when responding to dangerous calls.
“These dogs are out there doing the exact same exact job as us, with the capacity to get the exact same injuries that any of us can get and some of us have gotten,” Paul told the 22 participating trainees.
Morris County began investing in K-9s for its department back in 1977, and currently has 14 trained K-9 officers along with eight handlers.
The department also sends its K-9s to agencies in surrounding counties when needed.
The canine simulators are expensive, ranging in the thousands. The Teddy model is manufactured at a cost of $45,000.
“The military wanted more interventions, so we created Diesel,” Nichols explained. “He’s got 28 different medical interventions. He breathes. He bleeds. He’s got a pulse. He flexes like a real dog. He’s got a spring or a spine so [that] when you pick him up he’s not just dead weight. It creates just a super realistic training aid.”
Officers also worked with a real dog, Morris K-9 officer, Jojo, a 2 1/2-year-old Belgian malinois, to learn how to administer an IV to prevent heat injuries before they happen to dogs.
“We do that by getting the same IV fluid that we would put in the veins and it actually goes under the skin,” the instructor said, holding a bag of saline solution. “It’s called a pump camelback. The whole volume of this bag will be under the skin, and the dog won’t mind.”
Jojo was also used to train officers on how to wrap a paw pad injury in a “bootie” to allow the dog to keep walking.
Paul said that K-9s often get injured on the job, and because of this, officers need to know how to treat their four-legged partners.
“You can’t send a working dog into a hostile environment without having a plan to take care of injuries that are sustained during that engagement,” Paul said.
Fortunately for Morris County, the department has not lost a K-9 to injuries in its history, and it hopes to keep it that way by equipping its officers with this innovative training.