Police dogs are serious business in Yonkers, N.Y., and many other departments. Last week, six dogs graduated from a 17-week training program. “This is all fun and play to them,” explained Officer Mike O’Brien, the head trainer, watching the dogs alternate between their training exercises and chewing toys, the White Plains Journal News reports. Demand for training has skyrocketed, O’Brien said, reflecting a national trend. Membership in the United States Police K-9 Association’s Region 7, which includes New York City, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, tripled to 210 dogs in the past six years. Police attribute the jump to increased public appreciation and funding for law enforcement since the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It’s definitely become more popular, especially for bomb-sniffing dogs,” said Gary Pietropalo, retired Yonkers police dog trainer. the New York transit agency police department went from no dogs to more than 50. The German shepherd puppies each cost $5,000; they are imported from eastern Europe. The dogs pay for themselves, handlers agree. In 2007, Yonkers’ K-9s performed more than 2,000 jobs, including helping apprehend 241 suspects. Last month, a dog sniffed out more than $400,000 in cash and drugs during an arrest. Mount Vernon Police Commissioner David Chong called his three K-9s “invaluable” and said he would like to add a fourth when more money became available. “The K-9s are also a very effective crowd-control tool; just their presence alone tends to quell a disturbance,” he said.