Innovative GPD therapy dog program will serve special victims

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Thanks to the initiative taken by two of the city’s finest – Lt. Karen Yancy and Sgt. Kelly McKinney – the Griffin Police Department now has a Therapy Dog Program in place.

Gracie, and shar pei/Labrador mix, and Chevy, a pit bull, are the GPD’s newest K9 officers that will be utilized to serve special victims.

According to GPD Chief Mike Yates, this program came to fruition through the personal efforts of Yancy and McKinney, who approached him about the possibility of using their own personal dogs to assist crime victims.

“They talked to me about the idea. It’s becoming – I wouldn’t say common, but not uncommon – across the country to have the therapy dogs to assist with victims, like child victims of sexual assault and things of that nature,” Yates said. “The idea behind it is to give the victims some comfort level when they’re having to relive their experience and go through the forensic interview process or the court testimony process, to have that dog there to kind of support them emotionally through that traumatic event.”

Although the use of therapy dogs is expanding, Yates said they are not yet in common use in Georgia.

“The only place that we found in Georgia that was currently using any program like that was, I believe, the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office, or at least that was all we could find out about when we first started looking into it,” he said.

An expert in the field previously known by Yates also played an important role in the development of this therapy dog program.

“When we started looking into the possibilities of doing the program, a K9 trainer that I know, we asked him to evaluate their dogs to see how he thought they would fit – how he thought they would perform in that program. He pretty much evaluated them both and thought they would be good candidates for the program,” Yates said.

At that point, Yancy and McKinney undertook full financial responsibility for the next rigorous steps in the process.

“So, after that, I just kind of hooked that trainer up with Lt. Yancy and Sgt. McKinney, and through their own initiative and their own expense out of their pockets, they got with this trainer, went through the training and then put themselves through a fairly extensive certification process to get these dogs to the place where they could actually be utilized,” Yates explained.

Once the training and certification had been obtained fully at Yancy and McKinney’s personal expense, Yates approached the Griffin Board of Commissioners to formally request a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to relieve the two officers of sole future financial responsibility.

“Once they completed that certification at their expense, that’s when I approached the city about an MOU just to kind of help them out with the cost of maintaining the animals, and that’s how we got to where we’re at,” Yates said. “I think we have enough funds in our K9 donation account to cover any expenses that they may have, so at least if we get this thing up and running, there will be no taxpayer dollars involved in it.”

“I anticipate this being a very valuable tool. I’m a big K9 dog person, anyway, and I believe I know the value this program can have. We’re going to be willing to do it for the other surrounding counties and things like that upon request, so it’s not going to be something limited to us, unless it gets so big that we just can’t handle it. It’s a great pilot program at least, and we’re hopeful that it will really get a foothold and take off. I feel quite confident once we get up and running, that it will be more than embraced. We’re definitely going to follow it and see what kind of impact it has,” Yates said. “I think that the emphasis on this one would be the personal time, the personal expense and the dedication of those two women to do this on behalf of victims here in Spalding County. He put them together with the trainer, but everything else was at their initiative. I think it speaks very highly of them.”

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Comments

  1. Martin L. Sullivan says:

    I’ll place my Gentleman’s bet that it will work out extremely well.

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