Message from Chief Russo
Saying 'goodbye' to an old friend
By Chief Robby Russo
The Cottonwood Heights Police Department has three canines assigned to handlers. One is certified as a drug detection dog, while the other two are dual-purpose dogs (they locate drugs and successfully track fugitives while defending their handler). The working life of a police dog is approximately seven to eight years, and the acquisition cost is between $6,000 to $10,000 depending upon the age, level of training and aptitude. The dogs are an expensive yet crucial tool in law enforcement. Police budgets also contain a line item for food, vet bills, kennels and maintenance. CHPD recently retired K-9 “CHIP” who has served the city since we began the police department was created eight years ago.
The newest member of our K9 group is “Kia,” a one-year-old Belgian Malinois that is being paired with his handler. Both are in training to meet the certification requirements. To be certified in Utah, the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requires 320 hours of training for narcotic detection and another 320 hours for patrol certification.
The K-9s actually live with the handler and their family. It’s not exactly a pet since it’s really a law enforcement tool. Nevertheless, everyone helps care for the furry creature and naturally they become attached and integrated into the family. This was the case with Officer Michael Alcivar and his two- year- old canine “Koa.”
You can imagine how hard it was to learn that Koa was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma, a common cancer of lymphocytes in dogs. He was given two to four months to live. Even with chemotherapy, the percentage of dogs living more than one year after treatment is less than 20 percent. It’s sad Koa contracted this disease in his prime. This form of cancer is unbelievably painful, so the family spent a little time with Koa before his suffering ended in mid-January. For most members of the law enforcement community, their lives revolve around the health of their families pets, so it’s very distressing when a beloved dog gets terminal cancer.
CHPD is hoping to find the budget to replace Koa with a new puppy and begin the training process. Thank you Koa, for making the officers a bit safer and proudly serving the Cottonwood Heights Community.