With a series of scent boxes set in from of him, Anaheim PD K9 Halo easily finds his mark. In return, he gets his prized jute toy from handler, Officer RJ Young.
“If we teach ’em how to book it and then go testify, then we’re out of a job,” joked K9 handler Officer Brett Klevos to the audience watching the APD K9 demo at America’s Family Pet Expo at the OC Fair & Event Center April 28-30.
APD’s K9 officers and their dogs have become a staple at the annual pet show, which aims to educate the public about pet ownership and various types of pets. This year, the Anaheim K9s demonstrated their skills for all three days of the show at various times.
K9 Officer Brian Bonczkiewicz, along with sable-colored German shepherd Ivan, also showed the audience how effective police dogs are at catching bad guys – in this case, it was a volunteer officer (a decoy) wearing a protective bite sleeve. The sleeve ended up turning into a chew toy for Ivan once he caught his man.
“I haven’t met any person that can outrun our dogs,” said Klevos.
After Ivan caught the decoy a few times, that same officer was able to walk over and give Ivan a friendly pat without a problem – showing how good the K9s are at knowing when to socialize vs. apprehend.
It’s one of the goals of APD’s demos at the expo, said Bonczkiewicz, to “show them the other side of the police dogs … get rid of the misconceptions.”
The main misconception being that they are aggressive, when in fact they are simply trained to apprehend suspects at their handler’s command and in return, they get praise and playtime with a favorite toy. When they’re not after a suspect or sniffing for narcotics, they’re perfectly content to lay at their handler’s feet and wait to be petted.
Bonczkiewicz said that while the 95-pound Ivan might look intimidating, “he will not stop licking my face.”
Another important reason for the APD demos is to help support Friends of Anaheim Police K-9, a nonprofit volunteer group founded by animal lover and retired Anaheim school teacher Cheryl Timmons.
The group has been attending the expo for 17 years in order to raise funds and awareness for Anaheim’s K9s. The group raises money through merchandise sales and donations for medical and any other assistance Anaheim K9s might need in their retirement. They also accept donations for the working dogs, as well as donations to purchase new dogs for the unit.
The City of Anaheim pays for all the needs of their working dogs, but when they retire and are officially purchased by their handlers, all expenses are the responsibility of these officers. Because of the hard, intense work these K9s perform in their careers, medical expenses can get costly.
“Now we can improve the quality and length of life for the retired dog,” said Bonczkiewicz.
Dogs like Bruno, Young’s previous K9 who passed away last year, was retired two years prior after being shot in the jaw and chest while on duty. With many medical expenses on the horizon, Friends of Anaheim Police K9 was there to help.
“They’ve given us a lot; they’ve done a lot for us,” Klevos said to the audience about retired K9s.