Training Shelter Dogs for Service Duty in the Hudson Valley
These dogs go from a "ruff" start to local police work.
Officer Justin Bruzgul and his friendly partner, Kiah. An Amenia organization funded Kiah’s training.
photo by Geoff Tischman
You can usually find Poughkeepsie Police Officer Justin Bruzgul and his partner in the center of a crowd at events throughout the city. People instantly are attracted to the duo — particularly friendly-faced Kiah, Bruzgul’s detection dog.
Kiah joined the Poughkeepsie force in July 2015, after undergoing training with the Sector K9 training agency in Texas, where Bruzgul worked with her for two weeks to ensure they were bonded.
“You have to bond with your partner,” Bruzgul explains. “If you’re butting heads, it’s not going to work out.”
Well, it’s worked out fine. Kiah’s been instrumental in numerous drug arrests, and she’s great at public relations, as well. “We go anywhere that we can get positive interaction with the community,” the officer explains. “It’s rewarding to see her work. She’s my favorite part of the job.”
Kiah’s training — and rescue from the shelter that was her home — was funded by Animal Farm Foundation (AFF), a nonprofit in Dutchess County that provides grants to Sector K9 to train police dogs. After training, Sector K9 donates the dogs to police departments at no cost.
In addition, AFF trains service dogs; runs “Paws of Purpose,” which helps prison inmates train future service dogs, police/detection dogs, and pets; and supports myriad agencies and movements that advocate fair treatment of dogs, particularly those breeds that fall under the “pit bull” umbrella. Its mission is to encourage people to judge dogs individually, instead of relying on misinformation that labels some breeds as dangerous or undesirable.
“People might think we are a dog rescue or a shelter; but, really, we are fighting for social justice,” explains Stacey Coleman, executive director of AFF. “It is intolerable to us if dogs or their people are discriminated against because of a dog's origin or appearance.”
“They’re doing wonderful things,” Bruzgul says, “getting dogs off the streets and putting them to work, giving them a good life. Kiah came from an abused situation, and she was a shelter dog. Her life is 200 times better now.”