POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Over the years, pit bulls have made headlines for being a vicious breed, but what if police put them to work?
As CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported, Kiah the pit bull is energetic, but is she good enough to be a police dog? Her handlers believe she has the right stuff to join the department.
Kiah is hoping to become the first pit bull police dog on duty in Poughkeepsie.
“If the dog wants the work — if the dog is willing to work, the ball drive, the energy to use her nose and want to please her handler and do that working job, it doesn’t matter what breed it is,” said Poughkeepsie Police Officer Justin Bruzgul.
German shepherds or belgian malinois remain the go-to K9 breeds. Pit bulls are rare, though some have been used successfully to sniff out bodies or drugs, Gold reported.
The police department found Kiah in a Texas animal shelter after her previous owner was arrested for animal cruelty. She was free, but most police dogs can cost up to $15,000.
She was brought to the police department with the help of the Animal Farm Foundation, which believes that pit bills are often discriminated against.
“It’s about proving once and for all that the dogs labeled pit bull can do all the things that the dogs not labeled pit bull can do,” said executive director Stacey Coleman. “They can be a pet. They can be a working dog. They can be a companion. They can be a family dog. They can be an assistance dog.”
Pit bulls often make headlines, including last week in Elmont when 9-year-old Amiyah Dunston was in a backyard playing with friends when a dog attacked and killed her.
And in September, a Bronx man was mauled on the street by two pit bulls. The vicious attack was caught on video.
A 2011 study from the medical journal Annals of Medicine and Surgery revealed that “attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs.”
But pit bull supporters argue it’s how the dog is raised, not its DNA.
“Unlike what I had heard in the past about the dogs, she is social. She’s smart. She’s agile and she was fairly easy to train,” said Deputy George Carlson, K9 trainer for Ulster County Sheriff’s Department.
Kiah seems happy just to follow her nose, but some of her backers hope she can be a trailblazer.