A police K9 may encounter any of a number of weapons when he or she confronts a violent criminal.
“They’re the first ones to encounter these guys,” said Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman, who has been partnered with 6-year-old Belgian Malinois/Dutch shepherd Pako for three years. “That’s the risk that we ask them, to keep us safe so we can go home to our families.”
And the risks aren’t always linked to apprehending suspects.
“He had his side ripped open on a search,” said Hartman, adding that the injury required around 25 subdermal stitches and the veterinarian “had to sew his hide back together.”
The high risks police K9s face is why Santa Ana Valley Kennel Club (SAVKC) and Hemopet in Garden Grove, which houses a nonprofit blood bank for dogs, teamed up to offer a free blood bank to all working and retired police K9s in Orange County.
“Our club works closely with Hemopet and many of our members have received life-saving plasma for our dogs with various needs,” said Westminster resident Jill Dominguez, vice president of the SAVKC. “In my discussions with Dr. Dodds about police K9s and their need for fresh plasma in an emergency situation I learned that no funding source was in place to cover the costs of plasma products for police K9s. The concept took on a life of its own, so to speak.”
Hemopet, which is also a veterinary clinic, full-service lab, and greyhound rescue, uses blood from the greyhounds it houses for its blood bank.
Jennifer Lane, Hemopet blood bank administrator, said greyhounds make good blood donors “because they have a higher red blood cell count than most breeds and they are easy to have donate. They are really docile and patient throughout the whole donating process.”
The blood bank partnership began in September 2016, and fortunately no police K9 has needed it so far. To fund the blood bank, SAVKC is holding fundraising events on its own as well as in partnership with Orange County Police Canine Association (OCPCA).
“The fund is strategically designed to be sustainable by directly funding the care and welfare of the greyhounds that provide the blood product that is donated to police K9s by Hemopet, such as fresh frozen plasma, whole blood, platelet-rich plasma, and frozen plasma,” Dominguez said. “These blood products can be shipped at any time to any location to save the life of a K9 officer. The donations help offset the cost of the blood products provided by Hemopet as part of their ongoing commitment to police K9s.”
Blood transfusions and the costs of the accompanying treatments that the transfusion is treating can get expensive quickly. Dr. Ash Hakhamian of University Veterinary Center in Anaheim roughly estimates that patients needing blood transfusions may cost around $1,000 to $1,400 per day at a reasonably-priced veterinary hospital. Bigger dogs require more blood, meaning greater cost, and that doesn’t include accompanying treatments.
“It ranges because the blood transfusion itself is part of a slew of things patients need when they are that sick,” he said. “Meaning, it’s just one line item on top of antibiotics, fluids, nausea meds, nursing care, hospitalization, etc.”
Hartman is happy to know the blood bank exists and is there for the hard-working K9s like Pako who may need it. Though as long as Pako is a working police dog all his medical care is covered by the WPD, once he retires, Hartman takes full responsibility of any medical bills.
“If he retires and he gets injured and he needs blood, he can still go to that blood bank at zero cost,” Hartman said.
Any OCPCA member or veterinarian treating the OCPCA K9 can contact Hemopet and request blood product to be shipped immediately. Donations can be made at http://www.hemopet.org/hemopet-donations.html by noting the donation “SAVKC K9 Blood Bank” in the “add a note section” of the payment page.