The Poughkeepsie Police Department welcomes a new member—one that weighs in at a mere 60 lbs. and sports a latte-and-cream colored fur coat rather than the traditional uniform. But this police K-9 might surprise you—she’s no German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois, the most common breeds utilized for this variety of work. Nor is she a beagle, collie, retriever, or bloodhound—other breeds commonly commandeered for public service. No, Kiah is a pit bull, one of only a few pit bulls that have found their way onto the police force.
Her trainer, George Carlson, points out that there’s been little indication that there’s any connection between breed and a dog’s ability to excel at police work. Instead, Carlson credits eagerness, energy level, and motivation as far more important factors. The fact that Kiah is a “sweetheart” is an added bonus.
Brad Croft, an expert in law enforcement dog training, agrees with Carlson, saying, “It’s what’s inside the dog that’s important.” And Kiah has the skills, the smarts, and the big heart that the job requires. It was Croft’s expert eye that picked Kiah out of the crowd at an Austin animal shelter, recognizing her potential to do great things. Kiah’s previous owner has a personal connection to law enforcement, too—he was arrested on charges of animal cruelty.
Croft’s firm, Universal K-9, joined forces with Kiah’s shelter as well as non-profit Animal Farm Foundation, to train Kiah and provide her services to the Poughkeepsie PD free of charge. This is quite a gift, considering a traditionally trained K-9 officer can cost departments upwards of $15,000 a piece. Animal Farm Foundation is committed to changing the way pit bulls are viewed, which is part of the reason they helped to support the effort to rescue and train Kiah.
Kiah’s job on the force might be a bit surprising, considering the stereotypes that apply to her breed. She won’t be chasing down and detaining runaway perps, but rather using her nose and her affectionate, energetic, enthusiastic personality. Her title as a “sniffer” means she’ll use her powerful sense of smell to detect illicit substances or to help find missing people. She’s also playing another very important role on the force: goodwill ambassador.
Thanks to the fact that pit bulls have been used extensively in dog fighting and as a symbol of status in certain violent subcultures, the breed has a dangerous reputation. Many pit bull lovers say this rep is undeserved. Kiah’s out to upset that stereotype, thanks to Brad Croft and others who advocate for her breed.
And let’s be honest, pit bulls certainly need more advocates. Some shelters don’t even put pit bulls up for adoption—any dog with the physical characteristics associated with the breed is automatically euthanized. Pit bulls have even been banned in certain regions.
Perhaps Kiah’s career on the right side of the law can help to polish the pit bull’s tarnished image—an image that has been tarnished by people rather than the dogs themselves.