401 K-9 Program
Every day law enforcement dogs risk their lives in service to to the police. Many police officers and citizens alike are alive today because of the actions of well-trained police dogs. These highly trained law enforcement dogs provide officers one of the finest non-lethal aids in the prevention and detection of crime. Acting as patrol partners, in search and rescue, and in the detection of explosives, narcotics, and biological and chemical weapons, many of these dogs are injured and physically stressed for their entire lives. Like their human counterparts, these certified police dogs deserve to be safe in the field and receive benefits once they are no longer able to serve.
In 2002, the Greater Austin Crime Commission responded to a critical need for services and equipment to support active and retired canines and their handlers. The state’s first 401 K-9 program was born. The program has since been called upon to provide first aid trauma kits, bullet-proof vests, medication, disaster relief, emergency veterinarian services and numerous other types of support.
Each year the Crime Commission works diligently to match resources with canine/handler team needs. Through the creation of veterinarian provider networks and access to low-cost medications and supplies, the Commission offers financial relief to law enforcement agencies and officers who provide lifelong care for retired animals. Additionally, the Crime Commission offers education and training to law enforcement through annual conferences and hands-on opportunities. Some of the issues covered during the annual Police K-9 Emergency Medical Conference are international response procedures, decontamination procedures, heat stroke, snakebites, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, and canine training to detect chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Participation at the conference includes a diverse mix of law enforcement agencies: local police departments, Department of Homeland Security/TSA, Texas Department of Public Safety, FEMA, ATF, FBI, University of Texas, and Austin ISD Police Department.
GACC continues to partner with K-9 units to raise awareness in the community and the media in support of worthy causes such as the thousands of animals displaced by natural disasters, most recently witnessed during the tragic Bastrop, Texas wildfires. Their constituency includes numerous local, state, and federal agencies. The 401 K-9 program has been recognized for its accomplishments by law enforcement agencies and leaders such as Kay Bailey Hutchison, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and local police and fire leaders. In 2004, former Austin Mayor Will Wynn of proclaimed June 29, 2004 the K-9 Medical Training Conference day.
Sustaining the 401 K-9 program is a critical goal for the Crime Commission. Up to this point, GACC has primarily been funded through community support and individual donations. We plan to emphasize our fundraising efforts by utilizing our professional association and business contacts by seeking permission to collect donations at their events and place collection receptacles in their business locations. We will continue to expand the network of veterinarians and pharmaceuticals offering low-cost and/or no-cost services and medication.
Interested in helping? Opportunities for community members, both individuals and businesses, to “sponsor a canine” are now available. For information please contact Sandra Richter-Brown at the Greater Austin Crime Commission (Phone: 512-789-5001, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).