Meet a Foundation That Protects Retired Police Canines
By Tom Konecny
Police canines are every bit members of the police force as their human counterparts. Their careers, however, are much shorter.
After long, intense training, most canines work for 6-8 years and suffer injuries during their duties. Working every single day for eight hours a day takes a toll on their joints, especially military dogs. Whether it’s a knee, leg, or back injury, the problem is usually treated at the time, but the result is a shorter lifespan and constant medical treatment long after they’re done working.
Once they become unfit for police work due to age or disability – sometimes cancer – the canine is retired. His handler is typically offered the option of keeping the animal, yet many can’t because that person then assumes expenses associated with caring for him. Veterinary coverage can be exorbitant, especially dealing with cancer treatment.
That’s where the Retired Police Canine Foundation steps in. Formed in 2011 by Richard and Tina Geraci in Yaphank, NY, the foundation works to solicit and distribute funds and service for the care of retired police and military canines.
“We raise funds for any retired police or military dog that served,” said Richard, who works as a detective for the New York City Police Department.
The idea began as a single fundraiser that grew into a larger fundraising effort – then the idea took off. It’s now the largest American foundation for retired dogs.
Geraci has become one of the foremost canine instructors in America, logging 30,000 training hours with dogs over 12 years after spending time as an NYPD police officer. He’s found that once dogs are past their working prime, they’re often overlooked. Very few police departments care for their retired dogs, and far less in the military world.
“When dogs are retired, usually they’re hurt or sick,” Geraci said. “Everybody loves dogs, but they’ll work them until they can’t work anymore. I get a lot of military guys calling me for help.”
The foundation works to assist as many dogs as possible, but exactly how many is a moving number because so many dogs pass away – about 20 a year. By the time owners reach Geraci, they’re desperate for help. This year alone, the foundation is working to assist 31 active dogs and eight have passed away.
Fortunately, social media has helped the foundation thrive.
“The outpouring from charity has been great from people so far,” Geraci said. Donations are used for health insurance, basic vet bills, shots and extreme circumstances such as cancer care.
Geraci’s NYPD is one of the few police departments in America that cares for its retired canines. It has over 100 dogs serving on the force and an additional 40 in retirement. Those numbers make NYPD one of largest K9 units in the nation.
“They should be a model for other police departments out there,” Geraci said. “They 100 percent take care of them for the rest of their lives. They’re the model police department to show exactly what you should do.”
Geraci volunteers for the foundation so it can intervene before it’s too late.
“Nobody’s going to put a dog to sleep for no reason,” he said. “If there’s a reason to euthanize, they’re going to do it. Instead, we hope they’ll go to someone who will adopt them.”