By Bethany Blankley, The Middle Sq.
In 2018, 11-year-old Emma Stanford and her Gold Star household from Palm Coast, Florida, talked about to their native sheriff her need to discover a canine companion. He then despatched a member of his Okay-9 unit to her house and it was love at first woof.
Now 14, her efforts led to a brand new statewide program created via a regulation enacted this yr to help retired police canine. And her nonprofit EmmaLove’sK9s is inspiring others nationwide to assist increase cash to help police canine of their native communities.
Becoming a member of Gov. Ron DeSantis final month as he signed a invoice into regulation creating the Look after Retired Police Canines program, she stated as quickly as she realized in regards to the lack of funding for retired police canine, she wished to assist.
“The retired canine have served us and our communities and I consider that they deserve the absolute best care,” she stated.
“In Florida, we again the blue, and that features the Okay-9s which might be typically the primary to enter a harmful scenario,” DeSantis stated when he signed the invoice. “After dedicating their lives to defending and serving our communities, it is crucial that we make sure that these Okay-9s are cared for by offering the assets essential for handlers or adopters to afford their veterinary care.”
It is the primary program of its type to assist fund medical payments for retired police canine in Florida and is believed to be the primary within the U.S.
The regulation won’t have occurred if she hadn’t first met Flagler County Sheriff Chief Jonathan Welker and Sgt. Robert Tarczewski – and his Okay-9 companion, Tag, a German Shephard. Quickly after, she bought her personal German Shepherd, Sniper.
After she discovered how a lot it price handlers to look after retired canine, she requested Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly how she might assist.
Sgt. Robert Tarczewski, Emma Stanford, Sheriff Rick Staly, and Chief Jonathan Welker, June 2022.
He informed The Middle Sq. he’d by no means thought of the associated fee to look after retired canine in his 47-year profession. Every canine prices about $3,000 a yr, he says, with out critical medical points.
Many sheriff’s workplaces don’t have the manpower or funding to buy and deal with police canine. And those who don’t have the funds to deal with retired canine. Working canine have shaped such a bond with their handlers that once they retire, because of age or medical or bodily situations, their handlers take them house. And up till now, they’ve been bearing the prices themselves.
Considered one of his sergeants has two retired canine, he says, which price between $4,000 and $6,000. When he realized how costly it was, he instantly modified division coverage to pay a stipend to handlers.
However Emma wished to do extra and started elevating cash for Flagler County Sheriff Okay-9s, together with elevating sufficient to construct a brand new shed, buy gear, and a spread of different issues. To this point, she’s raised over $10,000, her mom says.
However Emma nonetheless wished to do extra, so she contacted her native state consultant, Stan Killebrew. He informed The Middle Sq. he’s by no means had an 11-year-old constituent contact him earlier than.
Normally, folks contact him expressing help or opposition to a invoice, he stated, however “Miss Emma contacted me with an thought to assist police canine.”
Earlier this yr, Killebrew launched a invoice to supply medical funding for retired police canine. The legislature handed it, DeSantis signed it into regulation, and it went into impact on June 13. This system, housed beneath the Florida Division of Legislation Enforcement, allocates $300,000 in recurring funds to cowl the medical prices of retired police canine. Via it, homeowners of eligible retired canine can be reimbursed as much as $1,500 for annual veterinary prices.
Killebrew says it should go “a great distance to assist canine which might be beat up after they serve they usually want medical consideration.”
Okay-9 plushies: Money, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, is skilled in patrol, monitoring, and narcotics in Lehigh Township, Pennsylvania. He’s funded solely by fundraisers and donations. Loki, a yellow Labrador, is a narcotics and monitoring specialist in Kent County, Maryland.
Police canine are sometimes dual-trained in narcotics and monitoring to apprehend suspects. They endure rigorous coaching, put on a spread of protecting gear, and infrequently are the primary to enter harmful conditions. Oftentimes they’re despatched into the woods or a home the place somebody could also be armed, he stated. They’ll defend their handler, even taking a bullet for them.
With the rise of fentanyl flooding Florida streets, Staly informed The Middle Sq. that his handlers carry NARCAN for themselves and their canine.
“Canines can overdose identical to folks,” he stated.
Considered one of his canine is skilled to smell out bombs and explosives. One other only in the near past helped discover a lacking resident affected by dementia who was misplaced within the woods, he stated.
He’s by no means met anybody like Emma earlier than “who as an 11-year-old helped create state regulation to assist deal with canines,” he informed The Middle Sq..
“It simply goes to indicate, when you have the willpower and the drive you may help your group, and on this case the four-legged canine and native sheriffs and cops.”
“She desires to be the primary feminine canine handler within the Flagler County Sheriff’s Workplace,” he stated of Emma.
Many handlers depend on donations to assist cowl prices, they usually’re contacting EmmaLove’sK9s from all around the nation for assist.
Canines like Money, a Belgian Malinois, skilled in narcotics detection in Lehigh Township, Pennsylvania, for instance, depend on donations coming from her nonprofit. She’s additionally elevating cash for working or retired canine in different elements of Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New Jersey, Nevada, and different states.
She hopes to assist police canine in all 50 states and that different state legislature will undertake comparable laws to Florida’s.