It is the mission of Animal Farm Foundation to secure equal treatment and opportunity for “pit bull” dogs and in an effort to meet that mission, Animal Farm Foundation has formed a collaboration with Austin Pets Alive! and Universal K9 so that rescued and sheltered “pit bull” dogs can be considered for Detection Dog work, which is traditionally reserved for pure bred, purpose bred dogs.
Potential detection dog candidates are selected from the Austin Pets Alive! shelter system to participate in training led by Universal K9, located in San Antonio, Texas. Once there, Brad Croft founder of Universal K9, trains and places the dogs in police departments around the country at no charge. Animal Farm Foundation provides a sponsorship to Universal K9 to help cover the costs of the officer training. We recently had the chance to ask Brad a few questions about the program.
AFF: What are some of the things you train the dogs to do?
Brad: Universal K9 trains dogs for narcotics, explosives, cadaver, and arson detection. We also train dogs to track for criminal apprehension and have trained dogs for vapor detection as well.
Can you tell our readers about the partnership between Universal K9 and Austin Pets Alive? When did you first get the idea to assess shelter dogs at APA! for your program?
I reached out to APA! and other local shelters about three years ago letting them know that I was seeking high drive dogs. Mike Kaviani, the Dog Behavior Program Manager at APA!, responded and I went out to test a few of their dogs. The ones I choose were all “pit bull” dogs. It can be challenging to place dogs that are labeled as “pit bulls” or “pit bull mixes,” because of misconceptions and prejudices, but I was able to find a couple of police departments early on that were open minded and I was able to place the dogs.
Has the response from police departments to “pit bull” detection dogs changed over the past 3 years? Are they more willing to accept them?
Many are still reluctant. But the sponsorship through AFF is helping to open some minds to the possibility of accepting a “pit bull” dog into their department.
What qualities are you looking for in a detection dog? If you transfer a dog from APA! for training, but it turns out they’re not a good fit, what happens to the dogs?
I look for dogs who are high drive, confident, and curious. If they’re strongly motivated by toys, that’s a plus. The dogs that don’t make it into the program are adopted out through us or APA!
It seems there is a common misconception by both the public and the working dog industry that dogs can’t be working K9s unless they are a specific breed or bred for the purpose of law enforcement work. In your experience, have you found that shelter dogs are just as capable of doing the work?
Any dog that has the drive, confidence, and desire to work can do it! Breed does not dictate a dog’s ability to work. I personally have a mutt – I have no idea what breed mix she is – but she is the best working dog I have ever come across! She can find narcotics and track people better than any “typical” police dog I’ve ever seen.
How many “pit bull” dogs have you placed with law enforcement? Can you tell us about one or two of these placements and the work they’re currently doing in their communities?
At this point we’ve trained and placed about 10 “pit bull” dogs with law enforcement agencies around the country. There are two dogs that really stand out right now.
K9 Libby with the Montgomery County, TX Constables was recently featured in People Magazine and has been dubbed “The World’s Raddest Police Dog” across social media for her work. K9 Ruby with the Chattahoochee Hills Police Department in GA made her first bust this month. Both dogs have their own Facebook pages and have lots of fans cheering them on!
Both are performing very well and making a huge difference in the communities in which they serve. It’s really awesome and I’m very happy to be a small part of it.
Thank you Brad for being much more than a small part in this important work!
To learn more about the detection dog program, please visit our website.