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What’s Happening to Our Retired K9’s?

Police K9 wearing a K9 vest

I just don’t understand this at all. Its always been my understanding that when a Police Department retired a K9 the Police Officer (K9 Handler) kept the dog like you’d keep any pet dog. Twice now in the past couple of months I learned that this is not always the case. Here are a couple of appalling horror stories of two retired K9’s. (Note that the photo is not of either of these rescued dogs!)

Retired K9 Found in Illinois Shelter

Very recently a retired K9 was found in an Illinois animal shelter. The handler had given the dog away and the people that took her in could not or didn’t want to keep her so they took her to an animal shelter where some wonderful people rescued her, fostered her, nursed her back to health and then turned her over to a German Shepherd Rescue where she’s currently being cared for pending adoption. I do not know what kind of nursing care she needed but being a retired K9 she should have been in good health to begin with. Thank you to the people who took the time and spent the money to care for her! I almost adopted her myself but I’m constantly fighting the “two dogs is enough” argument that constantly goes on in my head. If we could, my husband and I would probably take them all in! It just breaks our hearts to see the neglected and abused animals out there.

Retired K9 Locked in a Dog Run and Starved

The other K9 I learned of had an even more horrendous retirement. The handler locked him up in a kennel run for two years and ever so graciously fed and watered him just once a week! This poor thing had nearly torn his entire nose off trying to get out and suffered some horrendous pain and permanent health problems because of it. When I heard this I was absolutely furious! Again some wonderful people stepped in and were able to take him to a German Shepherd rescue where he received the care he needed and now lives a wonderful life with a loving family complete with a swimming pool to swim in!

Police Officers are Supposed to Care!

You would think they would especially for an animal who was their partner for however many years they spent together. Police Officers are supposed to fight animal cruelty by enforcing the laws and calling in the appropriate authorities to assist when they are faced with any animal suffering from neglect or cruelty. What kind of Police Officer would give their partner away? Depending on what the dog was trained for, they may need a very special home with a family who knows how to care for a trained K9. you certainly don’t want a take-down dog given to just anyone. Without the proper owner, this could mean a tragedy waiting to happen. What kind of Police Officer would lock their partner away in a kennel run and starve it?

What Kind of People are Our Law Enforcement Agencies Hiring?

Both of these K9’s were rescued from the State of Illinois. What the hell is going on in Illinois that would allow a Police Officer to do these things? I don’t know about you but things like this really make me wonder what kind of people our law enforcement agencies are hiring that are duty bound to protect and serve? Police Officers are supposed to care, they’re supposed to know better! They’re supposed to recognize and help alleviate pain and suffering not cause it at their own hands. If they’ll do this kind of thing to their K9 partner, what might they do to a human partner who needs them to back them up? Would they leave their human partner laying in the street with a bullet in them?

If for some valid reason the handler can’t keep the dog, there are people out there more than willing to take these dogs into their homes or organizations that will find the dog a good home. These dogs have put their lives on the line. These dogs would die for their human partner and are too often put in the position where they take a bullet for their human partner. They sniffed out drugs, bombs, took down bad guys, found lost children, located lost adults perhaps suffering from things like Alzheimer’s and backed up their human counterparts, doing a job that even some humans would never do. They loved, they served … only to be thrown away like garbage, abandoned or left to suffer at the hands of the person who they loved, cared for and protected so valiantly.

Police Agencies Need to Keep Tabs on Their Retired Dogs

Police agencies put mega-bucks into their K9 programs. Much funding comes from public donations and fund raisers held by citizens who truly want a K9 in their Police Department. For the duration of the dog’s service they are supposedly loved and cared for by the handlers. After they’re retired they more than deserve to be honored and respected, to have a happy, safe life with the handler that they devoted themselves to for so long. If that isn’t possible they should go to a loving forever home with people prepared to care for a dog of this nature.

So, what happens within the agencies themselves when a dog is retired? These two stories make me wonder. Do they not have requirements for the dog’s after-service care? The agency brought this dog into their care – they didn’t just hire a new employee. They have a responsibility to it. So where are their heads after retirement? Because it “served its purpose” it doesn’t matter anymore? These dogs don’t get a pension! Do the people who worked so hard to get the department their K9 know what happens to the dog after retirement? Or is this swept under the rug? If they knew what happened afterward, do you think so many of them would work to get and keep K9’s on their respective departments?

I’m beyond furious at and more than ashamed of the Police Officers who did this to these dogs and the departments who let it happen. I hope that somehow, some way they are made to pay for what they’ve done. Police Officers should not be immune to the laws they are sworn to uphold. Police departments really need to be sure that the Officer they’re allowing to handle their dogs is properly suited mentally, physically and emotionally to care for it not only during it’s service time but after. Judging from the fate of these two dogs (before rescue) the agencies who entrusted their dogs to these handlers did not do this. It makes me wonder just how these dogs were cared for during their service! No dog deserves to be treated as these two were, but to treat a Police K9 like this is nothing less than unforgivable and inexcusable. How many more dedicated K9’s both in service and retired are suffering?

Riley’s Place thanks everyone involved who rescued these two wonderful dogs and work to make better lives for them.


  1. If there is a related Animal Petition for this situation, can you please update your blog item to include that? We will happily share your article and highlight the Petition. Thank you.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Janet,

      I’m not aware of any petitions, but it would not surprise me to find there are. Anyone who know of any are welcome to add them to our blog and thanks for asking, Janet!

  2. Angie Luketich says:

    My boyfriend and I live together and he is a K-9 handler. We just retired “Ibor” after serving 7 years on the Police force and he has been replaced by “Marco” who also lives with us (both solid black German Shepherds). There IS NO way in h*** that I would give up this dog to anyone. He is our pet! I don’t understand how someone/anyone could abuse or neglect their partner. The bond that Ralph and Ibor have is amazing, this dog would give up his life for him. He deserves to be at home where he is loved!!

    • Mom says:

      Hi Angie,

      How you feel about Ibor is incredible, thank you for caring about him so much. Unfortunately, we’re learning that not all handlers have this kind of bond with their K9’s. More stories of neglect, abuse and abandonment are hitting the news and it’s becoming more frequent. It’s an absolute shameful thing for a cop who’s supposed to uphold the laws and fight things like animal abuse to do some of the things I’ve heard done to these faithful, loving dogs who worked so hard and in such dangerous conditions while they were “employed” as a K9. It’s a federal offense for someone to kill a K9, I have to wonder why is it not a federal offense for the handlers to do some of the horrific things they’re doing to their supposed partner and have to pay the consequences?

      Thank you for sharing your comments with us and please give Ibor and Marco hugs for us!

  3. John says:

    The officer was given a paid vacation for his abusing actions. The technical term is administrative leave (with pay).
    The same thing happened when they killed Kelly Thomas… paid leave. This is the case time and time again. Cops kill people, shoot people’s dogs, spread AIDS, piss on handicap people, punch handcuffed woman in the face… etc.. every time the judges (which are likely friends of these officers) claim they did nothing wrong. Even in the few cases where they are charged, they never get prison time or any real punishment. Most are back on the force in less than a week.

    • Mom says:

      Hi John,

      I can’t argue the point that not all law enforcement officers are good. There are bad apples in every profession. I think it’s much worse when it’s a cop, however, since they take an oath to protect and serve and people look up to police officers. The kind of officers you mentioned give a bad name to all of them which is very sad and maddening to say the least. Thank you for your comments.


  4. steve v says:

    my name is steve I would love to have a retired police dog or military German Sheppard.im 51 and have cancer we have had 2 Sheppard’s before 1 male and 1 female both passed at 15 yrs . just want it to have a forever home both dogs knew German, female was trained when we got her she knew 12 commands, Im retired and need a friend, to retire with. also was in the USAF kap123@msn.com

    • Mom says:

      Hi Steve,

      You can find quite a number of military dog adoption websites and German Shepherd rescues by Googling for them. I hope you find the dog of your dreams. Thank you for wanting to take a pet in need into your home! We wish you the very best with your health, too. Good luck!


  5. David says:

    I have an amazing retired highway patrol officer I rescued from a backyard that was mostly dirt and rocks. His shots were outdated and he hadn’t been groomed since he was placed in that yard. He is now sleeping next to my bed and gets groomed regularly.

    As upset and mad as I get thinking about how he was bounced from one home to the next, I feel incredibly fortunate to offer him my home for his remaining years! As much care and love as I give him he returns it exponentially!!!

    • Mom says:

      Thank you sooooo much, David, for giving this special guy a great forever home! I hope more people like you find K9’s that have been and continue to be abandoned by their handlers and are able to give them what they need most … a safe home, good food and lots of love and attention!

  6. Apparently the training that K9’s go through is incredibly harsh (cruel and abusive if you ask me), if the website below is accurate.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Christa,

      Thank you for joining our discussion. I approved your comment minus the link you provided. Thank you for including it, but in good conscious I cannot be party to pointing anyone to a website with that kind of information if I cannot substantiate it as fact or fiction.

      I really have no doubt that unfortunately, there are people (perhaps K9 trainers included) that treat/train their dogs in the fashion described on that website which is *absolutely* cruel, inhumane and in-excusable! There is no way to justify that kind of treatment for any dog for any reason whatsoever.

      I can tell you that not *all* K9 trainers use these methods. I hope that the information on that website is very old and that these training methods are no longer in practice anywhere.

  7. sis says:

    I had no idea that police officers did such a thing to there K9 partner. How horrible. After all the years the dog puts it’s life on the line, for the police officer that is how they treat them. The dog deserves a life of a couch, pillow and blanket, a nice steak, and rest. but gets zero.
    Those officers who do those kinds of things to the dog, should be locked up. For animal abuse.
    But because they have/had a gun and a badge they get away with it. They think they are above the law.
    I do hope there are officers that when they do retire do not treat the dog that way.

    • Deb says:

      Hi Sis,

      I know they’re not all like that but even one is one to many. I was even more horrified to learn of this than I am of all the other general public neglect and abuse stories. Police Officers are supposed to step in and help *cure* the problem *not* add to it by becoming contributors.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Jarrod and Tjando says:

      These are extremely rare exceptions. We love our dogs. There are approximately 50,000 police K9’s in the U.S. Don’t let the few spoil the beauty of a K9 team. It really is for life.

      • Mom says:

        I disagree in that this kind of thing should *never* happen. Granted the numbers are probably minimal in comparison with the number of K9’s our country has, but even one instance of cruelty or neglect is one too many. There is no excuse for the horrific things that happen to some of these K9’s when they’re retired. EVERY retired K9 should have a home and a loving family to live out their days. Anything else is just not acceptable.

  8. Kurt says:

    Sometimes your friendly police officer isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. It takes a certain kind of personality to make a good policeman. And that personality type usually doesn’t even think of a dog more that just a tool to use on his job.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Kurt,

      Thanks so much for your input. I definitely have to agree with you. Not everyone is cut out to be a Police Officer and not every Police Officer should be a K9 handler. Like everything else there always seems to be bad apples in every basket and this is no different.

      Dogs can be a wonderful tool to help to law enforcement. They deserve to be loved, well cared for and handled properly including wearing a vest like their partners do! They should not be treated like a hammer you toss into a toolbox when you’re done pounding in that nail. They most definitely should not be discarded when they’re retired.

      • Jarrod and Tjando says:

        Every police K9 should be Department Chipped. I know my big guy retires in a couple months and I traded my pickup in for an SUV and am shopping for a pet barrier with a door (right now he can and prefers to stick his big head up front). I couldnt imagine letting him go to anyone else. He has done so many things and saved my butt a few times. I agree, we owe these dogs the same loyalty they show us. Mine will have it the rest of his days.

        • Mom says:

          Fantastic Jarrod and Tjandro! This is the kind of thing we love to hear! Thank you for loving your boy!

  9. Mom says:

    Thanks, Beverly. I don’t know what happened with the Police Officers, if anything but I totally agree with you.

    • Thos. Purkins says:

      I do think this is the exception rather than the rule…but then again I have another exception laying at my feet right now…K-9 Troo, retired from a Virginia city police department, ended up at the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue…via a surrender during an adoption drive at a shopping center…no one ever knew he was a working dog until I researched his background months after adopting him. Mine is his 6th home…and his forever home…he had food and skin allergies that forced his retirement…and then ended up emaciated, infected with heartworms, living with some very questionable people. The Rescue folks said they knew he would not live another year if they did not take him. Now, 1/1/2 years later he is 6 and loving life…playing with his ball 24/7 and acting like a puppy. His temperament is balanced and 100% social. He is loyal & obedient and the easiest dog to be around I have ever owned. I would encourage others to consider adopting these wonderful working dogs, who have given so much and expect so little in return.

      • Mom says:

        Hi Thomas,

        Rescue stories such as yours are sooooooo heartwarming to read. Thank you so much for sharing yours, for taking this dog into your heart and home and caring enough to see to it that he got healthy and happy. He’s a very lucky dog that you found him and it sounds like between the two of you, the feeling is mutual :)

        Even if K9’s winding up in shelters or rescues is an exception — it’s not acceptable. It goes without saying that *any* creature (human or animal for that matter) being treated with cruelty or neglect is not acceptable. I was just so shocked that considering what K9’s do for people that even one of them would wind up in a bad situation after retirement. I really thought that law enforcement “took care of it’s own” and would *never* allow this kind of thing to happen. Apparently that’s not always the case when it comes to their K9’s. They’ll prosecute those who harm their dogs yet they’ll turn around and allow some of them to wind up in situations such as these. This makes no sense.

        I actually thought that part of all law enforcement K9 policies would include requirements to keep the dogs after retirement. Silly me. How they can NOT provide properly for their partners beyond their working years is mind boggling. Far as I’m concerned — if you’re a K9 handler your responsibilities to your K9 are yours until the dog passes on even if that’s years after the dog’s work is done. I understand that things happen — serious illness for example — that might mean you must give up your retired partner but that should be a last resort and not include surrender to a shelter where there are to many people allowed to adopt who should not be. Shelters and rescues can only do so much and they only see what people want them to see when they go through the adoption process. It’s unrealistic to think that they can know with 100% certainty that every critter they adopt out is going from their care to a GOOD new home.

        I know there are many in law enforcement that would never allow badness to happen to their dog and these Officers deserve all the gratitude that anyone and everyone can give them. On the other hand I know there there are K9 handlers who mistreat their own dogs while in their care!

        Thank you again, Thomas, for being their for Troop!

        • Gayle says:

          my son was a K 9 handler, he left his position for financial
          reasons. His dog was with him for 6 years. No one can handle him, he only responds to my son. His department took the dog away from him & our family & put him in a kennel & only feeds & waters him. They say he can not go to another handler. We want the dog so much he is part of our family & they refuse to give him to us.
          What should we do?

          • Mom says:

            Hi Gayle,

            I’m sorry to hear about your son’s financial troubles making it necessary for him to leave his position. The thought of a working dog being kenneled, fed and watered only is heartbreaking. Working dogs in general don’t do well kenneled for excessive periods of time.

            Before responding to your post, I consulted with a K9 handler to make sure I was on the right track and found that he concurred with my thoughts.

            If I’m understanding the history correctly here, your son left the department voluntarily. What happened was that the department did not take the dog away from your son, they simply kept their K9 when your son gave up his position. Your son would have known ahead of time that leaving the department meant giving the dog up no different than returning other kinds of department equipment. K9’s do not belong to their handlers, they belong to the department who purchased them. Do I like the fact that dogs are considered property? Absolutely not, but unfortunately that’s how law enforcement agencies think.

            Unless you have set up a surveillance camera you’d likely have no idea what’s happening with the dog on a daily basis but I’m going to assume you are correct. K9’s generally work with one handler. For everyone’s safety that’s how it’s designed and intended to work. If the dog listened to anyone and everyone, the criminals would be able to control the dogs which obviously nobody wants to happen. This is the reason K9’s are most often taught commands in a foreign language.

            Although it’s not easy, it takes time and a lot of work, there have been successful partnerships formed with K9’s and secondary handlers in cases where the primary handler is out of the picture for some reason such as your son quitting the department. The longer this department keeps this poor dog in a cage taking care of nothing more than his immediate survival needs the harder this may be to accomplish. If your son had to leave he had to leave, unfortunately it’s quite possible that your son leaving damaged the dog’s ability to trust people at least to some degree. One day he’s working hard doing his job and the next he’s stuck in a kennel seemingly never to get out and probably waiting for your son to come back. He doesn’t understand what happened, he just feels abandoned and if he’s truly not being worked, he’s got nowhere to go with all that energy and this is not good for him in any way, shape or form.

            Unless the dog was obtained via a donation(s), the dog cost the department anywhere from about $8,000 on up to around $25,000. Much of the initial cost of a K9 is in how many ways he’s trained. The more fields a dog is cross-trained in the more costly and valuable the dog is to the department. This is one reason the department will not just *give* the dog to you. They have a lot of of money invested in him. Unfortunately, law enforcement doesn’t have an “I love this dog” mentality where they go with what’s best for the dog. To them, K9’s are tools, no different than their hardware. A good example of law enforcement’s dog mentality is seen in the K9 Cops show on the Animal Planet channel. They consider their dogs as protection for their officers (among other things), but they don’t reciprocate by so much as putting vests on their dogs. Apparently they have lots of money for their K9 program because their dogs are too easily replaced or they would see to it that their dogs wear protective vests when working. Lose a dog, the handler may cry a few tears and then it’s “get another one” seems to be their mindset. I find huge fault in this way of thinking.

            Another huge reason is liability. The department paid for the dog’s training making them ultimately responsible for his behavior. If they give the dog to you and the dog bites someone, they could be held responsible.

            You could offer to purchase the dog, but this would be a very costly solution. The K9 handler I spoke with said depending on the age of the dog and his expected remaining years of service you are probably looking at a minimum of $7,000. He also said that a department selling a dog to civilians is not often done (if ever) because some departments feel they could still be held liable should the dog bite someone.

            Take for example the St. Paul K9 unit (from the K9 Cops show on Animal Planet that I mentioned earlier) … I recently learned from a very reliable source that when their dogs retire they are put down, they don’t move into the home of the handler because they do not want anyone to have the opportunity to sue them for any reason. I was absolutely livid when I heard this and it still angers me when I think about it so I try not to think about it. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic. The option of purchasing the dog (should you have the funding for this) might weigh heavily on whether your son resides in your home or not. Since he was the dog’s original handler if they allow a purchase at all, your chances may be slightly better if your son lives with you. Do not get your hopes up that the department will sell you this dog.

            My second suggestion involves “recycling” the dog. In other words try to get the department to see that their stance that the dog flat out cannot go to another handler under any circumstances is not necessarily the only answer. My K9 handler resource said this can be and is done and in fact apparently it’s done enough that there is a term for it, these dogs are called “retreads.” It’s not a quick and easy process in most cases and there is no guarantee it will work. However, it is worth a try if the dog has a significant number of years of service left. I would tend to think that a dog with a very strong drive to work would eventually be happier working with someone else than stuffed in a kennel and that with the right new handler he could once again excel in his job.

            You didn’t mention the dog’s breed. I can tell you that German Shepherds and Malinois are very strong “one person or one family” dogs. It doesn’t mean they won’t accept another family or handler under the right circumstances and with the right person/family, but it does mean it might take more work for a new union to be successful than some other breeds like labs or bloodhounds for example. I feel that no matter what the breed, the right new handler could win this dog’s loyalty and the two of them could go on to be a very successful K9 team and that he should at the very least be given a good strong opportunity to work things out with someone new.

            You could sit down with the Chief and/or the head of their K9 unit and talk about what options they might consider but be prepared for them to refuse all possibilities of your and your family bringing this dog home to live with you. Perhaps some sort of legal, binding contract releasing them from all responsibility is something they *might* consider? But I would definitely get a contract drawn up by a lawyer skilled in things like liability for one.

            I really don’t like to take away any hope from you of getting the dog, but in all honesty I unfortunately don’t think you have more than a slight chance of winning them over. They are going to put the good of the department ahead of what’s best for this dog. Yours and my ideas of what a dog is are completely different than what a law enforcement agency thinks a dog is and what he’s for. To us he’s a pet, something to love, cuddle and cherish. Not so in their eyes. If you don’t want to get your heart broken, you will need to get some tough skin to deal with this on their level.

            I really wish I had a more positive answer for you, but as much as we’d like to think so, a Police K9 is not your average everyday dog. K9’s have definite needs that no matter how much you love him — you and your family may not be able to properly provide these needs for him. These are things you may be heart-blind to in your quest to get this dog (I know that would be the case with me.) Granted, languishing in a kennel being fed and watered is not the life for this dog, but working dogs of this nature literally need much more than the average family is capable of providing. So, before you proceed, I think it would be best to research this, perhaps visit a K9 training center if you have one close enough and see what these dogs do day in and day out that keeps them happy! I think it might be a real eye opener for you. There was a time I wanted to jump in and get my two trained just for drug sniffing none of the other stuff that K9’s are built for. Once I really researched it, I had to be honest with myself … the every day dog and person/family is just not equipped for this. We have to work and we other life responsibilities. There is just way more to all the jobs K9’s do that we as the general public is aware of and it is serious hard work that must be kept up with every day!

            I wish you all the luck and hope you’ll let us know what happens.

  10. Beverly says:

    That a police officer could get away with neglecting and abusing their former K9 partner is beyond criminally wrong. It is morally wrong even more so. I hope that the handler of the second dog at least was criminally charged with neglect and failure to get the poor boy much needed medical care. That God for the rescues that step up and help these poor victims of less then deserving “man kind.”


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