Donations Fund New Pittsburgh Police K-9 and Stab-Resistant Vests for Canines

From The Tribune-Review by Margaret Harding, May 19, 2014

Minutes after he leaped up and dug his teeth into the back of a police sergeant’s arm on Monday morning, the newest member of the Pittsburgh police K-9 unit was wagging his tail.

The newest addition to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police K-9 unit, Ari, is introduced at the K-9 training facility on Washington Boulevard on Monday, May 19, 2014. — Sidney Davis  |  Tribune-Review

“Once you take the (protective) suit off and come over and pet them, they don’t hold it against you,” said acting Sgt. Dan Tice, who oversees the K-9 unit.

Ari, a 16-month-old German shepherd, is one of six dogs set to begin a 12-week training program next week. He will be paired with Officer Logan Hanley, a first-time K-9 handler, and will learn to detect explosives.

“I’ve always loved dogs,” Hanley said. “They always want to please the handler. It’s like their paycheck.”

The city bought Ari for $7,000 using money donated from Am-Gard, a Sharpsburg-based security firm. On Monday, city officials introduced the dog to media members at the canine training academy on Washington Boulevard in Lincoln-Lemington.

“I’m a huge animal lover and owner of two dogs,” said Jennifer Boczar, chief operating officer of Am-Gard. “Rocco’s story was very personal to me.”

Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, died two days after he was stabbed during a confrontation with a man in the basement of a Lawrenceville building on Jan. 28. An outpouring of support after his death led to donations to the police K-9 unit and the establishment of a trust fund.

Rocco’s handler, Officer Phil Lerza, recently began training with another dog, Beny.

John L. Rush, 21, of Stowe is accused of stabbing Rocco with a pocket knife. Rush is in the Allegheny County Jail on charges of aggravated assault, abusing a police animal, resisting arrest, cruelty to animals and other counts. His trial is set for July 3.

Donations from T-shirt sales in Rocco’s memory will pay for stab-resistant vests for the dogs; the vests can cost $900 to $1,300 each, Tice said.

Tice said because the vests can be a hindrance to the dogs, they will wear them only in high-risk situations.

“Even with Rocco, where he was stabbed, (the knife) would’ve gone underneath the vest,” Tice said. “They don’t protect them like they do us.”

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