Just as regular police officers need medical attention every so often, so do the K-9s that serve alongside them.
University of Wisconsin Veterinary Care has partnered with the UW police to aid in the treatment of their K-9 unit, or trained police dogs.
The UWVC started in 2016 and agreed to provide $5,000 worth of care and medications to the UWPD’s K-9 unit for each calendar year, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Hospital Director Ruthanne Chun said. If their expenses exceed that amount during the year, further services will be provided at a 50 percent discount.
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UWPD Officer Brent Plisch said the department does not use UWVC for primary care. The K-9 unit goes to UWVC for more invasive or serious procedures. Veterinarians from around Dane County donate their services to the K-9 unit for primary care consultations.
Plisch said they usually use the vet clinic in critical situations. The $5,000 they receive for care is a nice buffer for these emergencies.
“From the moment we purchase the dogs to retirement, there will always be some form of financial upkeep to ensure that they are properly equipped to protect our community,” Plisch said. “By having this program, it really relieves our budget.”
Plisch and Odin, his German shepherd partner and K-9 officer, have not yet visited the UWVC this year for any emergency procedures, he said. Other officers in the department, however, have had to use the UWVC.
This partnership started when the Capitol Canine organization, a group that supports the Madison K-9 unit, asked UWVC to provide discounted emergency and specialty care to these officers, Chun said.
“We at the School of Veterinary Medicine felt that we should be able to offer the same benefits to all the law enforcement dogs in Wisconsin,” Chun said.
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This partnership is slightly different than what is offered to K-9 units outside of Dane County, Chun said. To those units, UWVC offers a 50 percent discount on emergency and specialty care. This is due to the anticipation that such units will have easier access to local veterinary care for routine checkups.
“In this environment, where money is so tight, every penny matters,” Felt said. “From the standpoint of the care the dogs receive, which is first priority, and from an expense standpoint, it’s been absolutely beneficial.”
This service is important to the UWPD as K-9s are very expensive, Chun said. The purchasing price, training and maintenance that contribute to the overall competency of the animals all add up to high expenses.
Chun said UWPD also needs specialized vehicles and equipment for the K-9 unit, which adds more costs.
Chun said providing veterinary care to the animals helps UWPD save money for other areas as well.
“It’s important that we have appropriate care for the K-9 unit, considering the safety they provide to the public,” Plisch said.