The Virginia Police Work Dog Association (VPWDA) and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have announced plans to create a memorial to honor police dogs killed in the line of duty. The proposed memorial statue will be installed on the veterinary college’s campus at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) is also participating in the project.
The program will be formally announced in conjunction with an anniversary memorial service held for Ingo, a nine-year old Albemarle County Police Department German Shepherd that was killed on Oct. 24, 2004 during the apprehension of a burglary suspect that possibly saved the life of handler Officer Andy Gluba. That ceremony and a series of police dog demonstrations will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2005 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Albemarle High School in Charlottesville.
There are an estimated 250-300 working police dogs in Virginia, according to Officer John Hoover of the Roanoke City Police Department. Hoover, a certified master trainer with the North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) and a master trainer with the VPWDA, has been working to develop interest in such a memorial for several years.
“It’s tough to find the words that describe the incredible role these dogs play in law enforcement and public safety,” said Hoover, who frequently conducts training sessions for police handlers throughout the mid-Atlantic region. “They put their lives on the line every day, just like our officers. They are partners and they are heroes.”
Hoover said that about a half-dozen animals have been killed in the line of duty since they began playing an active role in Virginia law enforcement about 35 years ago. Ingo was the most recent fatality in Virginia, and in February 2005, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association posthumously awarded Ingo its annual “Animal Hero Award.”
“We’re honored to partner with the law enforcement community on a project that celebrates such a noble cause,” said Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. “Our society has become so deeply involved with animals as pets that we sometimes forget about the important contributions made every day by working and service animals. Veterinarians have an important responsibility to keep these working animals healthy and vital.”
Police dogs and their handlers must undergo extensive training and can earn a variety of certifications. For example, the North American Police Work Dog Association provides certifications in the categories of patrol or criminal apprehension, accelerant, bloodhound, cadaver, explosive, narcotics, tracking and trailing, utility and wildlife.
Since 1983, the NAPWDA has certified more than 17,000 canine teams in the United States and about 3800 of those are still functioning with valid accreditations, according to the organization’s web-site.
The Virginia K-9 Memorial will be financed from private donations, according to Hoover, who is one of three NAPWDA master trainers in Virginia and only 54 in the nation, according to the NAPWDA. Interested citizens as well as organizations and corporations familiar with the law enforcement and security communities are invited to participate in the project through charitable donations.
Those interested can forward contributions to the Virginia Police K-9 Memorial Fund, Office of Development and Public Relations, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 24061.