by John Thompson
We know how important they are. We know they put their lives on the line right beside us. We know all too often that they are the first to put themselves in danger, and that their heroics have saved countless lives.
But we might not always know how to say thank you.
Let’s change that by nominating our K-9 partners for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards so they can be given the recognition and respect they so richly deserve.
Because we know how important our four-legged officers are in keeping our communities safe, and because we know that animal cruelty is often a precursor to more heinous crimes, the National Sheriffs’ Association successfully pushed for the FBI to begin including incidents of animal cruelty in its National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
The FBI recently credited the National Sheriffs’ Association for being a “leading advocate” for adding animal cruelty data to the system after years of citing studies linking animal abuse to other types of crimes.
While that information will be available beginning next year, we don’t have to wait to show our K-9 officers how special and critical to our mission they really are.
Last year’s winner in the law enforcement dog category was Dax, a German Shepherd who was the first K-9 in Massachusetts history to be awarded the George L. Hanna Memorial Award for Bravery. Dax demonstrated his bravery by biting a suspect who was holed up in an attic, armed with a shotgun and determined to injure or kill officers on the scene.
Officer Chris Alberini wrote of his K-9 partner: “If Dax hadn’t been there, I’d be dead.”
“[The suspect] was waiting in the attic for the police officer to turn a flashlight on him, and he was going to shoot,” Alberini later wrote. “Investigators later learned that the suspect had texted his attorney and girlfriend about killing police. We all owe our lives to this brave K-9.”
Law enforcement offices have until March 9 to nominate their dogs at www.herodogawards.org. The winner of the Law Enforcement Dog of the Year category will be flown with the seven other category winners to Los Angeles in September for a red-carpet awards gala, where one will also be chosen as the top American Hero Dog for 2016.The event will air nationwide in a two-hour special on the Hallmark Channel, a program that reaches one billion people along with a host of celebrity dog lovers.
“Dogs do so many extraordinary things to improve and even save our lives,” said Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association. “And this contest is our way of saluting our best friends.”
We know how much they do for us, and now we know how we can get them the recognition they have earned.
Nominate your hero K-9 today at www.herodogawards.org.
John Thompson is the deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, a 44-year public safety professional and served in the U.S. Army as a canine handler and military intelligence officer.