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Donation keeps Greencastle Police dog safe in heat of summer

December 23, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • PA K9 Assistance Foundation President Mike Decher, left, holds a heat sensor that his foundation donated to Greencastle, Pa., Officer Keith Russell to keep K9 officer Rony safe from heat exhaustion.
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Police dogs face unavoidable, life-threatening situations every day.

But, many K-9s die needlessly from heat stroke after being left unattended in a patrol car.

Greencastle Police Department officer Keith Russell wants to ensure his canine partner, Rony, is not one of them.

When it’s only 80 degrees outside, the inside of a car can heat up to more than 120 degrees in just minutes, according to the American Kennel Club website.

The PA K9 Assistance Foundation website adds that over the last five years, as many K9s have died in heat- related incidents as have been shot.

Russell wants a heat sensor for his K9 unit to protect his partner from extreme heat, but at a cost of $1,500, that type of equipment seemed out of reach.

That is until the PA K9 Assistance Foundation read a Herald-Mail article about Russell and his K9 partner.

The PA K9 Assistance Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “provide underfunded K9 teams with needed equipment and training that will aid and protect them in the performance of their jobs,” according to the organization’s website.

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The foundation footed the entire cost of the equipment. 

We contacted Keith (Russell), and it surprised the heck out of him,” said Mike Decher, president of PA K9 Assistance of Carversville, Pa.

“I think police dogs are a tremendous community-relations tool and also an asset to the police department because it cuts down on man hours,” said Jules Ferraro, K9 technical adviser for the organization.

Decher and Ferraro have law enforcement backgrounds.

The vehicle heat-sensing equipment, once installed in the police vehicle, will monitor the temperature in the patrol unit. Russell will have a pager that will alert him to the vehicle’s temperature at all times. If the temperature reaches a dangerous level, the officer will be alerted by a pager, but also the windows will automatically roll down and a fan will cool the dog, Decher said.

Greencastle Police Chief John Phillippy was happy to receive a piece of equipment that will help keep one of Greencastle’s finest officers safe.

“These dogs give 100 percent of themselves for their communities, and we’ve been really fortunate here in the Greencastle area with community support and now with these folks behind us, as well. It all goes to benefit the dog and the dog benefits the community,” Phillippy said.

The 86-pound dog, which has been with the department three years, is certified for narcotics work and patrol tasks, which include tracking and apprehending suspects, building searches, protection and searches for evidence.

Russell said the community has been very generous to Rony. A vest has been provided for the dog, Food Lion provides food, Greencastle Veterinarian donates care and Hicks Chevrolet painted the K9 vehicle.

One of the biggest gifts came from an anonymous donor who gave the police department $13,000 to purchase Rony.

It was a case of something bad turning into something good.

Russell said he responded to an attempted burglary at a borough residence, but after a thorough search couldn’t find the culprit. After leaving the scene and doing some paperwork at the office, he was called back to the scene.

“I was told that someone tried to kick in the back door of the house again. If I would have had him (Rony), it would have been a much different ending,” Russell said, adding the dog would have picked up the person’s scent and possibly caught him.

Russell and the homeowner discussed the benefit of having a police dog and shortly thereafter, the man stopped by the police station and donated the money to buy Rony under the condition of remaining anonymous.

Without that man’s generous donation, Russell said the department wouldn’t have been able to afford the dog.

“There are dogs and there are dogs. Quite frankly, I consider Roney in the latter category. He’s one of a kind,” Phillippy said.

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