New kind of canine joins area police department SanTan Sun News

New kind of canine joins area police department

July 20th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
New kind of canine joins area police department
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By CECILIA CHAN

Staff

Meet Mesa Police’s newest officer in training, a 16-week-old English Labrador retriever named Macy.

She’s learning the basic commands, such as “sit,” “come here,” “stay” and “leave it,” said handler Chelsie Furman, a department detective who uses treats as a motivator.

But in two years after completing her certifications, Macy will be the department’s first therapy and emotional support dog, ready to lend a paw to child abuse and adult sex victims.

“In certain circumstances, she’ll sit in on interviews and we’ll have them pet her while they talk about the incident that happened to them,” Furman said at a news conference last Tuesday.

The department has 18 detectives working sex abuse and child crime cases and they all carry a fair load, she noted.

In the meantime, Macy is providing comfort to department staff and officers who may need it, and she will continue to do so after she is certified.

For instance, two staffers had lost loved ones but perked up and were smiling and laughing within 10 minutes of meeting Macy, said Furman, who is accompanied by Macy every work day.

The Officer Assistance Fund covered the cost of purchasing the yellow Lab from a breeder.

A Labrador was chosen because the breed is seen as non-threatening, more cuddly and approachable by children, Furman said.

For the past 27 consecutive years, the family-friendly lab has held the No. 1 spot for most popular breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club.

Macy was selected at 5 weeks old and three weeks later came home with Furman, living and socializing with the detective’s other pets – two dogs, a cat and a tortoise, all rescues.

Exposure to other animals is an important part of the training process.

Furman explained that an English Labrador is generally calmer, sweeter and more docile than the American Labrador. And, a girl was chosen because females are smaller and tend not to mark like male dogs, she added.

A number of law enforcement agencies are using therapy dogs, including Greensboro Police in North Carolina, Boynton Beach Police in Florida and Pima County Sheriff’s Department in southern Arizona. Types of dogs include goldendoodle, border collie-mix and a treeing walker coonhound.

Studies show therapy animals can benefit individuals who have suffered physical or emotional trauma.

According to the National Center of Prosecution of Child Abuse, a therapy animal can help a child open up and promote the healing process.

Mesa Police’s new Therapy Canine Program came at the behest of Chief Ramon Batista, who was hired last year.

“This is a cumulation of a lot of planning and a lot of work,” he said at the news conference. “We are all very, very excited about our program and our canine Macy.”

Furman said there is a chance the program can expand down the road with more dogs and possibly help crime victims with autism.

For now, Macy is learning to walk with a leash, ride in a car and socialize with people.

“She is a little sponge,” Furman said. “She’s doing fantastic.”

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