LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — There is a new pilot program in Lancaster County offering a different kind of K9 to local police departments, which have the job to support mental health and healing.
Cute and cuddly, the newest members of three police departments in Lancaster County. Karen Weatherbie donated a litter of Golden Retriever puppies to take part in a first-of-its-kind trauma dog program. The program was created by Sabina matter of Alpha Pack Veteran K9’s Unleashed.
“Trauma Dogs are there to aid officers with the traumas that they see, inside the department internally,” Mattern said.
Their sole duty? To soothe souls.
“Then they can also be trained and used for crime victims, or if someone is coming in to file a victim’s statement will help emotionally,” Matten said.
So far, Elizabethtown, East Lampeter, and East Hempfield Township Police Departments have added the new four-pawed officers. East Hempfield Township Chief Jen Brubaker says K9 Valor is a valued addition.
“Right away it was a pretty easy sell within the agency and with our elected officials I think everybody thought wow this has the potential to be a really good program something we can do for our officers as well as the community,” Chief Brubaker said.
“We are just doing some simple obedience sits, stays, laydowns,” K9 handler and East Hempfield Township Police Detective David Bender said.
Basic training is for now and the advanced training will come over two years following ADA guidelines. Elizabethtown’s Police chief Ed Cunningham said his officers have been asking for a program like this.
“I’ve been a cop for 30 years and I know the stress and mental health struggles that law enforcement and emergency services go through and so anything I can do to help ease that for our officers and our first responders, I am all in,” Chief Cunningham said.
I think especially as a man we have a lot of stigma of how we handle our stress handle emotions, there are the traditional ways to handle stress which are usually negative, and in law enforcement, it adds a little extra,” Detective Edward Wengiel of the Elizabethtown Police department and K9 Nala’s handler said. “So to now have the ability to come into the station and have a dog that is fetch motivated who loves to chase after a ball she’s got these big floppy ears and a loving face and really hard to not decompress immediately and it’s just a step in the right directions when it comes to stress management.”
Detective Heather Waltman with East Lampeter Township Police agrees when it comes to her K9 partner Seija.
“I think the big thing with her is just providing that comfort as far as a very high-stress situation and just being there and her calm just naturally brings officers down.”
Alpha Pack thanks a husband and wife team, both police officers in Lancaster County, who took care of the puppies until they were able to be with their handlers. The pilot project is expanding as more departments sign up for free dogs and training. Food and vet care are donated to most departments.