St. Paul, vet school partner on K-9 health

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The St. Paul Police Department and the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine have partnered to provide K-9 units with health care services in a new three-year contract.


Currently, there are 19 dogs serving as K-9 officers in the department.


Under the contract, it costs the police department $930 each time a K-9 is treated at the University, with a 5 percent increase each year.


Before the partnership, the St. Paul Police Department paid a set fee for each visit to local clinics where the dogs sought treatment.


“Many times we would end up at the University’s clinic because it provides more services for the animals,” said St. Paul police Sgt. Paul Dunnom. “We jumped at an opportunity to assist the K-9s where research and care are the most advanced.”


Health care, including vaccination, heartworm preventatives and annual exams are covered under the contract for each pre-certified K-9.


Kellie Strand, a technician at the University’s veterinary clinic, has worked with each of the St. Paul Police Department’s K-9 officers.


She said because each dog’s records are on file and because the clinic provides 24-hour service, the clinic can respond to any injury or illness.


“The department and its dogs benefit from the partnership in the most extreme cases, as well as routine checkups,” Strand said.


In April, a St. Paul K-9 was shot in the face and suffered a tooth fracture because of his injury. Strand said the clinic responded quickly and that the K-9 recovered.


Dunnom said the University’s veterinary services have responded with immediate medical attention for the department’s K-9s in ways other clinics aren’t able to.


“The University’s veterinary services have an expertise that many clinics can’t compete with,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer … the school continues to teach the vets we were going to before the partnership started.”


Hospital director David Lee said the University’s facilities are the largest and busiest in the country.


“Most people don’t realize that,” he said. “We have almost all the technology a human hospital would.”


The clinic is equipped with an MRI scanner and other specialized machines that ensure advanced care for its patients. There are more than 65 specialists working at the clinic and 13 specialties within it.


“The medical center provides a level of care that departments within St. Paul law enforcement require to ensure [public safety],” Lee said.


Four dogs will be treated at the clinic before the end of the month, Dummon said.


K-9 units are an extension of law enforcement and should be provided with the care and love needed to assist them back to health, Strand said.


“These dogs provide security to Minnesota,” she said. “We need to provide them with protection when they are injured or sick.”