Despite BSL In Some Cities, Colorado Adds First Pit Bull Detection Dog to K9 Unit

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Chris Smith

K9 Kara’s passion for squeaky tennis balls has led her to a life of fighting crime with the Colorado Mounted Rangers. But things weren’t always looking up for the dog.

Kara, a brindle “pit bull,” was surrendered by her owner, who told Canyon Lake Animal Shelter, a no kill shelter in Texas, that if they didn’t take his dog, he would take her to a kill shelter. Oh, and she was pregnant, too.

Realizing that the small pit bull was on the fast track to euthanasia, Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society took her in, and she soon gave birth to 8 puppies. All her babies were eventually adopted.

Related: Two Shelter Pit Bulls Given Second Chance as Police Dogs

President of Canyon Lake, Angie Gilstrap, saw that Kara had potential for something big, and that’s how she was saved by a squeaky ball. Gilstrap noticed the dog’s love for tennis balls and wondered if she would be a fit for a police dog.

Image Credit: Karen Hoglund
Image Credit: Karen Hoglund

“Knowing this is one of Universal K9’s key elements, she called us to evaluate her further,” says Brad Croft, director of Universal K9, an organization that trains sheltered “pit bull” dogs (and other breeds) for police departments across the country at no cost to law enforcement through funding provided by Animal Farm Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to securing equal treatment and opportunity for pit bull dogs.

Around the same time that Kara arrived at Universal K9, the Colorado Mounted Rangers asked one of their Rangers, Dawn Havens, to start a K9 program. Passionate about pit bulls, Croft offered to fund everything and donate Kara to Havens, making her the first pit bull detection dog in Colorado.

Image Credit: Karen Hoglund
Image Credit: Karen Hoglund

Good thing the Rangers don’t have an issue with pit bulls. “They had faith in me to handle the unit,” says Havens.

But that isn’t the case for all areas in Colorado. Kara lives in a state that is home to highly contentious breed specific legislation in Denver and surrounding communities. Pit bulls are illegal in certain cities.

The breed is loosely defined by the law as any dog that looks like an American pit bull terrier, staffordshire terrier or staffordshire bull terrier. If you have an “illegal” pit bull in Denver, the chances are your dog will be impounded by Denver Animal Protection and brought to a shelter for evaluation.

Your dog will then be examined to determine if he is a possible pit bull. Three officers independently evaluate the dog, and all three must agree it is a pit bull. If even one officer disagrees, the dog is deemed legal to reside in Denver. However, if your dog gets the thumbs down from all three officers, he will be sent to another county and put up for adoption.

Havens reports that Kara is doing great. “She knows her job and knows it well. We will be assisting all outside agencies with drug busts and tracking search and rescue.” She works even in areas where pit bulls are banned. She is living proof that dogs labelled pit bulls are no different from any breed.

Dawn with Kara. Image Credit: Karen Hoglund
Dawn with Kara. Image Credit: Chris Smith

Indeed, Animal Farm Foundation’s Detection Dog Program in partnership with Universal K9, has resulted in the successful placement of more than 30 pit bull detection dogs to date. This not only saves dogs’ lives and supports local law enforcement, it also creates an opportunity for officers and citizens to witness the underlying potential of everyday dogs, like K9 Kara.

Related: Dog on Death Row Becomes Ohio’s First Pit Bull Police Dog

Image Credit: Karen Hoglund
Image Credit: Karen Hoglund

Havens reports nothing really phases Kara. She loves everybody, shows great patience and in her downtime, she is kind of a clown.

“Kara is an incredible dog,” says Havens. “People need to stop following the news and educate themselves about pit bulls. They would be surprised at how wrong the media is and actually fall in love with them.”

Related: Shelters’ ‘Live-or-Die’ Test Is Getting Put Under the Microscope

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