NYPD introduces 2 new emotional support K-9s

K-9s Jenny and Piper are the first two graduates of "Puppies Behind Bars," a program that raises and trains service dogs for responders by inmates


Today, many public safety agencies use therapy dogs to relieve personnel following tough calls, as well as to defuse the natural tension that comes with the job. Therapy dogs are proving to be a key ingredient in agency wellness programs, helping responders process the trauma they experience, reduce anxiety, cope with grief — and sometimes, just reset between calls. Next month, Lexipol will discuss how a first responder therapy dog program can benefit your agency in a new webinar. Register for the May 11 webinar here.

By Sarah Calams

NEW YORK — In January, NYPD Officers Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora were shot and killed while responding to a call in a Harlem apartment. Thousands of officers packed the streets of New York City for the slain officers' funerals, mourning the death of not one – but two – of their colleagues.  

Coping with their grief was softened by two new emotional support dogs: NYPD K-9s Jenny and Piper, who are assigned to the Employee Assistance Unit. Jenny and Piper also sat next to the officers' widows and family members during their funeral services.  

K-9s Jenny and Piper are the first two graduates of "Puppies Behind Bars," a program that raises and trains service dogs for responders by prison inmates. The two dogs completed their training at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, ABC7NY.com reported.  

"We're police officers that went into a maximum security prison, and we had to learn from inmates. It was intimidating in the beginning, but that all went away very quickly," said detective and handler Ronald Thomas. 

There are currently three emotional support dogs for the NYPD, but the unit hopes to get more in the future to help officers with any job-related stressors.  

"There are stigmas in law enforcement that exist. People don't always want to come forward and say they are going through something, but having done this without a dog and doing this with a dog, now it's dramatically different," Thomas said. "Dogs have a tendency to lighten the mood and bring down the stress." 

NEXT: Therapy K9s: Changing the way law enforcement serves communities

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