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Apr 17, 2019 9:33 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Calendar To Raise Money For Retired Police Dogs

Southampton Village Police Officer James Moore with K9 dog Topper. The pair were photographed by Cindy Dickson for a calendar that raised money for the Retired Police K9 Foundation, which helps pay for food and medical costs for retired K9 dogs. CINDY DICKSON
Apr 17, 2019 10:19 AM

They often are directly responsible for bringing in millions of dollars of seized assets to the police departments they work for, and the work they do can avert tragedy and save lives. But when they retire, and need medical care, they are often left without a financial safety net.Police dogs are an invaluable asset for departments in a number of different crime-fighting ventures, from search-and-rescue missions to bomb sniffing to nabbing drug traffickers.

A dog’s ability to smell explosives can save hundreds of lives; sniffing out drugs can lead to a windfall of forfeiture funds for police departments. And, like their human counterparts, they often put their lives on the line.

When police dogs retire, sometime around middle or early old age, they almost always stay with their handler partners. But in many departments, once dogs are officially retired, the department no longer pays for their food or medical bills.

That’s where the Retired Police K9 Foundation steps in. The nonprofit helps cover costly surgeries, and negotiates with local veterinarians and food supply stores to provide discounts or free food and services for retired police dogs.

The foundation relies on donations, and Southampton Village Police Officer James Moore and his K9 partner, Topper, were recently part of an effort to help the foundation, posing for a calendar that featured several K9 units from across Suffolk County. Sales of the calendar netted $1,200, which was donated to the Retired Police K9 Foundation earlier this year.

The calendar was the brainchild of Cindy Dickson. She works as a dispatcher for the Suffolk County Police Department but is an avid photographer in her spare time. She had put her photographer skills to use for the police by taking photos of the department’s K9 unit for baseball card-style photos of the dogs that they hand out to children.

In September 2018, Ms. Dickson attended the funeral for Rocky, a police dog from Riverhead that was killed in the line of duty. It was at the funeral that she had a front-row seat to just how vital the dogs are to the departments, and the communities they live and work in.

“I couldn’t believe all the different agencies that were there,” she said. “There were so many handlers and dogs at the funeral. It was very telling to me that this is a really special situation between the dogs and their handlers.

“The K9s are always a big draw,” she continued. “Everybody loves the dogs. So I decided that maybe I could put my photography skills to use in another way to raise money for a K9 support agency.”

The calendar features many of the 22 police dogs currently working in Suffolk County, including Topper, who started with Sergeant Moore and the Southampton Village Police in the fall of 2018.

Richard Geraci runs the foundation, and said he was more than happy to see the effort made by Ms. Dickson to support his cause and bring awareness to the importance of K9 units.

Mr. Geraci explained that while some departments—such as the NYPD—will cover the costs of taking care of the dogs until they die, many other departments do not provide any kind of financial assistance once the dogs are retired. Because most police dogs retire around the age when they start requiring more medical care, and possibly costly surgeries, it can often be a burden for their handlers to come up with the means to pay for their care.

“Most departments, and the U.S. military, don’t cover the bills when the K9s retire,” Mr. Geraci said. “We put donations toward medical support, food, anything associated with keeping the retired police animal healthy.

“When they’re retired, they’re retired for a reason,” he added. “The handler almost always wants to keep the dog. They’re not going to give it away. So they make sacrifices to pay the bills. But it can get to the point where they can’t afford to keep the dog alive if they need a big surgery. We’ve had dogs that need a $12,000 surgery or a $3,000 MRI. Without us, they often don’t have a choice.”

Mr. Geraci pointed out that a narcotics dog is often responsible for bringing in boatloads of money for departments in forfeitures, but too often none of that money is set aside to provide for the animal’s care once it retires.

In addition to helping cover vet bills and other expenses, Mr. Geraci’s foundation also advocates for retired police dogs in other ways, such as negotiating with landlords to allow handlers and retired dogs to remain in rented homes or apartments, and also to have access to the same rights as service dogs. The foundation even helps care for the dogs through the end of their lives, often trying to ensure they have the dignified end of life they deserve, paying for cremation or to have a memorial made.

“We have to take care of them in post life, too,” Mr. Geraci said.

For more information, visit policek9help.com.

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Where can the calendars be purchased?
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Apr 20, 19 11:02 AM
Just a question. Why the hell does Southampton Village have a police dog? Is a chopper next?
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Apr 21, 19 9:31 AM
area search, vehicle search, evidence search, apprehension and narcotics search perhaps.
By bigfresh (4546), north sea on Apr 21, 19 10:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
The village is very small and to say they need a police dog in a village that has virtually no crime is ridiculous. The village police spend most of their time pulling people over for traffic stops. Most of the Time it is on county road 39 which borders the village. The reason they do this is because they collect revenue. The village police was created to keep village citizen safe not to give tickets on county road 39 to make revenue. Having a police dog is sister another $20000 a year down the ...more
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Apr 22, 19 7:51 AM
Nothing wrong with having a police dog, they are invaluable assets and their presence alone can assist with resolving a situation. In case you haven't noticed our quiet little villages are not so quiet and are not quite so small anymore. Times change and you need to change with them.
By Preliator Lives (429), Obamavillie on Apr 22, 19 9:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
"They often are directly responsible for bringing in millions of dollars of seized assets" ... Perhaps some of those dollars should be set aside for the dog's long term care needs.
By bird (817), Sag Harbor on Apr 22, 19 3:23 PM
Yeah Southampton is where drug mules set up shop. Please people when you keep asking why taxes are going up dont ask anymore. Keep wasting money let's order a chopper and some armored vehicles just to be safe never r know when the Russians will invade.
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Apr 22, 19 4:10 PM
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