The two newest officers on SEPTA’s K-9 police squad don’t have your average police dog’s backstory.
That’s because Tico and Kilo were both formerly stray dogs who wound up recruited and trained by Throw Away Dogs, a local nonprofit dog-training program that turns strays into K-9s.
The new dog-cops graduated Tuesday at the Penn Vet Working Center, where both dogs got patrol training, and were officially donated to SEPTA. On Wedneday, the dogs will be “hitting the streets of Philadelphia to protect our citizens of this amazing city,” according to Throw Away Dogs.
Since their founding back in 2014, Throw Away Dogs has donated 20 formerly stray, now working dogs to police departments around the country, mostly German shepherds and some Belgian Malinois.
High-energy dogs can be trained to become K-9s specializing in tasks ranging from patrol to searching for things like explosives, narcotics, prison contraband and cadavers.
“We’re saving a dog, then we’re saving the department money, but what’s happening after that is we’re making a difference in the communities,” is how Throw Away Dogs co-founder Carol Skaziak previously described the program to Metro. “This is huge. This is completely repurposing an animal, with a great outcome.”
They’ve also risen to national prominence, even being included in “dog whisperer” Cesar Milan’s new show “Dog Nation.”
They’ve also encountered some inevitable tragedies. Earlier this year, K-9 Winchester, the SEPTA police dog (not trained by Throw Away Dogs, but himself a former stray) who inspired the Throw Away Dogs program, unexpectedly passed away on Sept. 26, 2017.
“Because of him we are doing great things and changing the lives of many,” Skaziak said of Winchester.
To learn more, visit throwawaydogsproject.com.