Support sought for first-aid training for K-9 handlers and their pups

The Ocean View Police Department is teaming up with law-enforcement agencies throughout the state to help train K-9 handlers in first aid for their four-legged partners.

“For me, my biggest issue is, if our dog is injured in the line of duty — if it’s work-related or medical-related, and it’s after hours — what do we do?” said OVPD Cpl. Justin Hopkins. “I want to make sure we can do something if they’re hurt.”

With that in mind, the OVPD teamed up with the Delaware State Police and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 16 in order to raise funds to train 50 K-9 officers throughout the state in canine first aid.

Ales for Tails will be held on Saturday, Aug. 11, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 16 Mile Brewing Company in Georgetown. Tickets cost $15 for each adult or $6 for kids. Tickets may be purchased at the police department, online through Eventbrite or at the event on the day-of.

The event is sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 16, Mountaire Farms, 16 Mile Brewing Company and Hocker’s BBQ.

Those who purchase tickets will be able to enjoy live music by the First State Force, and be provided with a non-alcoholic drink and meal from Hocker’s BBQ. Alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase at the venue.

“16 Mile has agreed that, for every beer sold, we’ll receive a portion back,” said Hopkins. “They’re very law enforcement-friendly. They thought it was a good cause and wanted to support us. They agreed that we could host an event at their venue.”

The event will also feature activities for kids, and K-9 demonstrations.

Monies raised will go to training 50 police K-9 officers throughout the state in life-saving first aid via Veterinary Tactical Group.

“They are very renowned vets in the industry,” Hopkins said, noting that they’re also military personnel, for the most part. “They developed the K-9 Tactical Combat Casualty Care. They developed that program and started it for U.S. Navy Seals. They continue to present the training to special forces and law-enforcement. They also do some on the civilian side — the Alaskan Iditarod teams.”

Hopkins said K-9 handlers do receive minimal canine first-aid training, such as how to treat a scratched pad or cut.

“Up until this point, it’s been ‘Seek treatment.’ After-hours, there are not many facilities that are 24 hours, and those that are, for the most part, are staffed by an on-call doctor. So, it could be 30 minutes, two hours, or maybe even longer, before they’re being seen. And if they’re suffering from a serious disability, they’re already dead…

“The obvious disadvantage to everyone else is we’re out of a lot of money, because these dogs cost a lot of money and time investment.”

Hopkins said the OVPD likes to go “above and beyond,” in terms of training, and sought to educate him further.

Some K-9 officers in the state were able to take the first-aid course two years ago, after the OVPD received grant funding to pay for the training for a limited number of officers. However, that funding is no longer available, so Hopkins is making a grassroots effort to raise the necessary funding.

“I’ve had multiple people approach me asking when we’re doing it again,” said Hopkins. “Unfortunately, since the funding is no longer available to us, we needed to come up with a way to do this free of charge. It has to be free. Agencies throughout the state, we’re all on a budget. We don’t have $500 per officer to spend on this training plus the necessary equipment that we train with to treat our dogs.

“The ultimate goal is to raise $25,000 to pay for 50 K-9 teams across the state, which is most K-9 teams in the state. The money would pay 100 percent for all of us to go through a class and would also furbish everybody with an IFAK medical kit, which is the device we train on to treat some of these life-threatening injuries that we could be posed with.”

“As first-responders, all police officers are trained to provide basic lifesaving support to subjects in need until paramedics arrive on scene. This is training to help out humans,” added Delaware State Police M.Cpl. Lenny Aguilar of the K-9 unit.

“There may be some time that we send [our K-9 teams] in harm’s way as part of their job to protect us and the public. There is always that possibility that a K-9 could get hurt in the performance of their duties.

“Our K-9 handlers should have the working knowledge of some basic first aid to treat their K-9 on scene — possibly stabilize them prior to transportation to a more advance medical facility, just like triaging a human patient at the scene of an incident.”

Aguilar said the Tactical Canine Casualty Care (TC3) course is a two-day hands-on, intensive training focusing on treatment of working-dog emergencies in the field.

“The course incorporates current TCCC and TECC guidelines, with K-9 specific anatomy and physiology, to provide the most up-to-date lifesaving information available for working dogs. Training includes multiple interactive, casualty response situations in simulated tactical environments, using canine mannequins and other realistic training aids in dynamic scenarios.”

K-9 officers prove their worth on the job

 Both Hopkins and Aguilar said having a K-9 unit within a police department is extremely useful.

“The K-9s are trained to protect their handlers, track and search for suspects that may be hiding from law enforcement, and apprehend such individuals as needed. K-9s are also used to search for explosive devices and illegal narcotics,” said Aguilar.

“A lot of folks look for the known quantities — the extra drug arrests, the money grabs, the vehicle seizures, and, granted, we’ve had that. But I think the biggest benefits don’t make the news — for one, officer safety,” added Hopkins. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made stops or arrests and the suspects have showed signs they were thinking about doing something, whether it was showing aggression toward me or wanting to run away — the signs were there. Following up with them after the fact, they’ve told me, ‘I heard your dog.’

“Before I was a K-9 officer, what really sold it for me was, I picked up a German shepherd on an animal complaint, was able to find its owner, and was just waiting for them to come down to the PD. I had a call right down the road to assist Troop 4 with a physical domestic. I couldn’t leave the dog here, so I put him in my car and drove over…

“The suspect was noncompliant with me, and the German shepherd — who was not trained, just in the back of my car — started barking at the guy. The guy stuck up his hands and gave up. I found out later the dog was 13 years old, was blind, deaf and had hip dysplasia. But because of that dog, it saved me from a potential incident. That happens so much. That happens so much, and there’s no documenting it.”

Hopkins, who became a K-9 handler in 2014, is partnered with 5-year-old Hardy, a drug-detecting dog.

“You become a county and a state asset,” he said. “We’re never off the clock. Every year we go through our re-certification. Most of what I do is in and for Ocean View, because those are the people paying for the dog; however, upon request, I am available throughout the state and have helped other agencies throughout the state.”

Hopkins said the community will support law-enforcement agencies throughout the state and attend Saturday’s event.

“I hope people come and have a good time,” said Hopkins. “And, at the end of the day, I want to be successful in my cause to raise this money to get this training because, ultimately, that’s the big thing. Even if I save one dog, that would do so much.”

Host 16 Mile Brewing Company is located at 413 South Bedford Street in Georgetown. To purchase tickets, visit the Ocean View Police Department at 201 Central Avenue in Ocean View, or visit Those who are unable to attend but would like to show their monetary support may do so via

For more information on the event or the K-9 training, contact the Ocean View Police Department at (302) 539-1111.

By Maria Counts
Staff Reporter