'Pit bulls' that would have been euthanized in shelters are being recruited by law enforcement as K9 dogs

Wrongly believed to be aggressive and dangerous by critics, law enforcement is using rescued shelter pit bulls as K9 dogs and slowly changing the way people look at them.


                            'Pit bulls' that would have been euthanized in shelters are being recruited by law enforcement as K9 dogs
K9 Pepper (L), K9 Kiah (R) (Animal Farm Foundation)

Those that have adopted rescued dogs have long talked about their massive hearts and big personalities but now these dogs are also offering their superb sniffing skills to law enforcement. Wrongly believed to be aggressive and dangerous by critics, law enforcement is using rescued shelter pit bulls as K9 dogs and slowly changing the way people look at them.

Organizations like Animal Farm Foundation, Sector K9 and Austin Pets Alive are collaborating to rescue these dogs from shelters to be trained as police dogs, many of whom would otherwise be euthanized. More often than not dogs labeled "pit bull" have a greater chance of being euthanized because of the label, Bernice Clifford, the Animal Farm Foundation Director of Training, told MEA World Wide. "Our K9 program was designed to give dogs with this label an additional opportunity to shine and show their individuality," she said. The organization works to bring "dogs and people together to end discrimination." 

K9 Harlow with officer Hicks (Animal Farm Foundation)

The dogs are picked according to the traits they exhibit. "Dogs that have been labeled 'pit bull' in a shelter have an array of personalities and abilities," she said noting that not all dogs labeled "pit bull" make good police dogs, just like not all "purebred/purpose-bred dogs make good police dogs." The dog breed is not necessarily tied to the ability and desire to perform a job, she said. 

In fact "pit bull" is not even a breed - it was initially used as a short form for the American Pit Bull Terrier. "Each dog is evaluated as an individual. A dog who shows a strong desire to use their nose and a love of chasing toys may be considered for further testing," she said. 

On the plus side, they're also financially more viable for law enforcement. While buying a German Shepherd or Belgian Shepherd can cost anywhere between $10,000-$25,0000, the rescued dogs come at no cost - the dogs placed through Sector K9 are placed with the departments at no cost due to a grant through Animal Farm Foundation. "This means that small towns have equal access to K9s, a resource often reserved for larger and more affluent communities," she said. 

With the dogs being "hand-selected" for their desire and ability to do the job, the training is actually "easy and fun". "Training to sniff out drugs or weapons is done mostly using toys as the reinforcement for a job well done," the organization said. 

Police in areas of New York, Georgia and Washington, have adopted and employed these canines so far.

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