Olmsted County, Minn. - In the past two weeks, two Minnesota law enforcement K-9s have been wounded or killed in the line of duty. Anoka Police K-9 Bravo was shot and hurt during an armed carjacking, and Duluth Police K-9 Luna was shot and killed during an armed standoff with police.
Olmsted County Sheriff's Office Deputy Ryan Mangan says the incidents hit close to home, as a fellow K-9 handler. "It's just sad all the way around when we know how much work goes into the dogs, how much the dogs mean to us: the sheriff's office and the community. Especially when it happens in our state, kind of in our backyard, it really hits home," he says.
His K-9 partner Rajko is a 10-year-old german shepherd and a valuable asset to the county. He's trained in narcotics and patrol. Dogs' senses are stronger than humans, so they're useful in finding people and evidence. Dep. Mangan says K-9s are naturally protective of their handlers, just like a household pet may be protective of its owner.
In return, handlers protect their dogs too. "We protect them from themselves a lot of the time because they will literally do anything for us as handlers. We train them that way. They're that confident in what they do. So we have to protect them, in that some situations we may not send them in because there could be a very high percentage they could get hurt or killed," he explains. In situations with more unknown factors, they may send in a dog to check it out. Olmsted County dogs also wear stab and bullet-proof protective vests.
Although law enforcement K-9s are tools to protect peace officers and the community, Mangan says they're still family.
A seriously injured or killed K-9 is also an expensive loss. A new, untrained addition to a department is roughly $10,000. This doesn't include training and equipment costs.