Texas organization gives shelter dogs new duty and a second chance

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – No one wants to see dogs spend months, sometimes years, at shelters waiting to be adopted, but San Antonio-based Universal K9 is specifically looking for those dogs to train them for police departments. Universal K9 has already rescued more than 150 dogs across the country and on Friday, they came to the Town Lake Animal Center to rescue more.

“They’re usually the dogs that nobody wants as a pet because they’re high energy and they usually get euthanized,” said Brad Croft, the Operations Director at Universal K9.

Dogs like 3-year-old Remi, who was just one day away from being euthanized. Luckily for her, Croft found her on the streets last year and rescued her.

Remi now works as a police dog, tracking criminals and doing narcotics busts with the Midlothian Police Department, just south of Dallas.

“She does her job. She loves to do the job. She thinks everything is a game,” said Midlothian Police Corporal Wesley Keeling, who is Remi’s handler. Like most other K9 handlers, Keeling takes full care of Remi, even after the job is done.

“I have two small children at home. We put her in the backyard with them and I don’t have to worry about it. She’s not going to bite anybody. My other German Shepherd that I had before, I couldn’t do that,” said Keeling about his previous police dog.

“She’s a family dog at home but when she’s at work she finds drugs and tracks bad guys, that’s what she does.”

Finding more dogs to track bad guys is exactly what brought Universal K9 to Austin Pets Alive, where they adopted three dogs to be trained for police departments out of state.

“Any dog can do this. It doesn’t take a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois or a lab. Any dog can do police work, all they need is the chance to do it,” said Croft.

From living on the streets to patrolling the streets — for Brooklyn, it’s a second chance.

Universal K9 trains these dogs in San Antonio and offers them to police departments around the country at no cost.

KXAN News checked in with the Patrol Canine Unit at the Austin Police Department to see if they would consider using shelter dogs for police work.

“Possibly for the bomb detection units or narcotics, but not for patrol work,” said Gwaldo. “A shelter dog is five or six years old and we have no idea about the dog’s history and past, if they can tolerate gun fire or what triggers them. All of our dogs at APD are trained in house when they are only about a year old, so we can mold them to however we want.”

APD has two certified dog trainers on staff. There are currently nine dogs covering the entire city of Austin.

“These dogs work anywhere from 8-13 years. Until they retire, they’re a city’s piece of equipment. They’re an investment. We don’t treat them as pets,” said Gwaldo. “Our dogs don’t bite many people at all — that’s a testament to how we train them.”

Other police departments in the Austin-area are also turning to rescue dogs. In December, Round Rock Police found two new K9 partners at local shelters– a Bull Terrier mix and a labrador. Those dogs are currently going through up to six months of rigorous training to get ready for police work.

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