On July 13, 2017 a brindle Pit Bull mix named Kara was sworn in to the Colorado Mounted Rangers. The trained narcotics detection dog and her partner Dawn Havens are the state’s first-ever “Pit Bull” K9 Unit.
New York and Ohio have also welcomed blocky-headed K9 officers to their law enforcement departments, but Kara’s arrival in Colorado is particularly momentous because dogs like her are banned in many of the cities she will serve – including the state capital.
Under Denver city ordinance, “Pit Bull breeds,” including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and “any dogs displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of these breeds” are banned in the City and County of Denver.
Similar BSL laws are in place across the state despite overwhelming evidence that they do nothing to reduce dog bite incidences. Thanks to dogs like Kara, Breed Specific Legislation is slowly becoming a thing of the past.
But this pretty Pittie was not always the prestigious working dog she is today. She was rescued from a Texas shelter along with her eight newborn puppies by Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society, a no-kill sanctuary that offers second chances to dogs and cats in kill shelters.
They liberated Kara and her little family, easily finding homes for the adorable pups. When it came to placing the mixed-breed mama, Canyon Lake noticed that she had the potential for something bigger.
They contacted Brad Croft of Universal K9, a non-profit organization devoted to rescuing shelter dogs and training them for jobs in law enforcement and veteran services.
Croft instantly recognized Kara’s capacity for law enforcement service. Her energy, intelligence, and eager-to-please nature coupled with her high prey-drive are all ideal traits in a narcotics detection/tracking dog. When conducting an assessment, Croft does not bother with superficial traits like size, gender or breed.
“Any dog can do this,” he told iHeartDogs. “What they look like on the outside doesn’t matter one bit. It’s what’s inside the dog.”
Croft subjected Kara to six weeks of intense training. She learned to track the scent of a human and practiced locating illicit drugs in a variety of hard-to-reach spots.
Next it was time for Dawn Havens, an 11-year law enforcement veteran and volunteer for the Colorado Rangers, to travel to Texas for an additional two weeks of training alongside her new partner. The pair quickly formed a powerful bond of mutual trust and respect.
“K9 Kara and I are both hard workers and we train together every day, which has helped us form a really strong bond,” Havens said. “When we’re on the job it’s all business, there’s no doubt she’s just as capable as a purebred K9. But when we’re off duty, she’s an incredibly sweet, affectionate dog. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”
Although she has only been an official Colorado K9 Ranger for a week, Kara has already successfully completed her first assignment – a cocaine bust!
Thanks to the hard work and faith of so many Pit Bull advocates, Kara has a bright future of love, purpose and service ahead of her. Canyon Lake Animal Shelter Society recognized her potential, Brad Croft at Universal K9 shaped that potential into a meaningful career, and Animal Farm Foundation provided the resources to make it all happen!
AFF is fighting to dispel the damaging myths about Pit Bulls by partnering with Universal K9 to train them for detection work – jobs traditionally reserved for purebred dogs. According to Croft, the idea that only certain breeds are cut out for detection work is silly and antiquated.
“My hope is that dogs like Kara and the work we are doing with Animal Farm Foundation will open people’s eyes to the potential of Pit Bulls and eventually help to abolish breed specific laws altogether,” he said.
Featured Images via Animal Farm Foundation