Expansion Benefits Police K-9 Unit
The Snellville Police Department makes new accommodations for its canine officers, and makes way for a new addition.
Chris the dog ambles playfully across the parking lot, marking bushes and playing with his favorite chew toy as his owner watches. He’s just as playful and carefree as any other family dog. Only, he’s not out for a leisurely run with his family. He’s on break at work.
Chris is one of three canines employed by the Snellville Police Department. Even though they’re playful, these aren’t pets. They’re working dogs.
Snellville’s current K-9 teams are Cpl. David Matson and Chris; Officer Will Collins and Bart; and Officer Dennis Peters and Euro. The dogs are all Dutch Shepherds, bred in Europe from working bloodlines, and are used primarily in searches for narcotics, search and rescue, and patrol duties.
Snellville Police Department runs its K-9 unit a bit differently than most others elsewhere. Most police dogs belong to the department or county, train and live with their handlers, and are donated to or purchased by the handlers at the end of their service. Snellville officers pay their own money for their canine partners once they are accepted onto the unit. The dogs belong to them, yet work for the city.
“The chief’s philosophy is, if we have a financial investment, we’ll be more dedicated to training the animals and to our position,” said Matson, head of the canine unit. “It’s a big investment, and a huge commitment.”
That commitment includes weekly training sessions, along with monthly specialty training for high-risk scenarios. These duties have been made easier with the new facility, which all police services completed the move to on Feb. 16. The officers have been given their own offices, and the dogs their own on-site kennels, an upgrade from the former station which had no facilities for dogs or handlers.
“This is a great benefit to us,” Matson said. “We used to leave the dogs in the car in between patrols or when they were not in use. We would leave our cars running from the beginning of the shift to the end.”
The new, temporary kennels are made of sturdy, chain-linked sections placed on a cement base, with screens to shield the animals from the sun. These are only temporary kennels; further upgrades are on the horizon. Within the next two years, a concrete, indoor facility will be erected on site specifically for the dogs.
The officers seek to keep the dogs comfortable not only at police headquarters but at home, as well. Their treatment of the dogs while off-duty is another quality the department is proud of.
“A lot of units will have handlers that will kennel the dogs while they’re at home or on the weekends, because they see them as a working animal,” said Officer Will Collins. “We treat them pretty much like pets when out of the office. Most of us have other dogs, and they spend time and play with them, too. They’re buddies and brothers.”
Matson agreed, adding that the dogs are more dedicated when they are treated well and respected.
“As an officer, when I get home I know I like to relax and have a good time. My dog should too. We treat them as members of our family.”
The department is hoping to expand their K-9 family with funding secured for a fourth team. They’re beginning the extensive selection process soon to add another officer-canine combo, and hope to have the position filled by the end of the summer.
For more information, please visit the Snellville K-9 Unit on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/snellville.police.k9