Better Care for Working Dogs
Fifteen law enforcement K9 handlers recently participated in a tactical medical K9 handler course conducted by Valkyries Austere Medical Solutions & Consultants of Anniston Ala. The course was conducted over three days and earned credit from the Georgia POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training) Council.
The course focused on the officer, the K9, and providing tactical medical lifesaving interventions (LSIs) for life-threatening scenes encountered on tactical missions. It provided education and training on the use of individual first aid kits (IFAKs) in the three phases of care under the Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) model. TECC’s recommended MARCHE treatment protocol—for major hemorrhage, airway, breathing/respirations, circulation, head & hypothermia, and everything else—is the foundation of officers’ training for treating themselves, other officers, and their K9 partners at the point of wounding. Other topics included health and wellness, poisonings, heat-related injuries, bloat, and snakebites K9s encounter during deployment.
Attending officers came from the Metro Atlanta Healthcare Coalition’s Region N, which encompasses Paulding, Cobb, Douglas, and Cherokee counties. The training was paid for by coalition grant funding.
Data collected revealed that no handlers of narcotics dogs carried naloxone for their K9s, and none of the dogs had had gastropexy to prevent GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), commonly called “bloat” (one local canine had been lost to bloat not long before). Eight percent of the officers said they lacked a temperature-monitoring device in their patrol car.
Each officer received classroom education, collaboration for insight, chances for hands-on application, and, at the end of the training, a K9-specific IFAK funded by the Metro Atlanta Healthcare Coalition Region N Kennesaw outreach program.
Several recommendations emerged based on responses from a survey of attendees:
- Vehicles that carry working dogs need to be fitted with working air conditioning units and sensors that will alert offices.
- Commanders should be more involved in the use of K9 resources instead of using K9s as a reactive specialty resource.
- Officers should receive education, skills, and practical training in first responding for both themselves and their K9s.
Vince Battaglia has been in flight EMS and the dog community for over 30 years. He has served in the Army and National Guard, deployed to Iraq and other counties. He belongs to three different dog clubs and holds a variety of emergency medical memberships.