Police departments use canine officers for all kinds of operations including search-and-rescue missions, drug stings, and bomb threats. These dogs have to endure an intense training program and their handlers have to be on top of their game constantly.
Kyle McCraith, an officer at the Albany Police Department, wants to help make sure that these handlers have the most up-to-date information and training tips available. McCraith has been a canine handler for over 20 years, and, with the help of some other handlers in the area, decided to form the New York State Canine Association.
The association provides its members with free instruction and training. McCraith says that all too often he sees officers that are dedicated to their jobs and their canine partners, but can’t get the training that they need.
In order to attend trainings, most officers have to pay their own training fees, pay for their hotel stay, and purchase their own meals. Obviously, that can add up to hundreds of dollars per training, and most handlers need multiple trainings every year. McCraith set out to help ease this financial burden.
To date, the association has 60 members. It is open to search-and-rescue teams and law enforcement professionals. Members only have to pay a $20 fee annually and they can attend classes and request specific trainings to meet the standards of the North American Police Work Dog Association.
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The New York State Canine Association offers all forms of training from search-and-rescue to grooming. Most people wouldn’t think something simple like grooming would affect a canine’s ability to perform his job, but that isn’t true. If a dog has fleas, ticks, mats, or some other issue causing it distress, it may not be able to focus completely on its job. Providing proper grooming allows the dog to focus on his work 100 percent.
As long as they can raise the money, the association is hoping to hold numerous trainings all over the state of New York. Association coordinator, Thomas Poltynski, says sessions can cost thousands of dollars when you include the price of renting a venue and paying the trainers. They do receive donations and are always trying to find more. They have gotten a lot of equipment donated including bulletproof vests, which are a big help.
The association believes that in order to invest in the future they need to invest in new ideas and training methods. Teaching people new skills, and working with them to improve the skills they already have, will last them a lifetime and benefit the police forces for years to come.