It all started with Hope. Not just the feeling of hope – a scrawny German shepherd who was picked up as a stray in York County, Pennsylvania who also went by the name. Hope didn’t look like much – her ribs stuck out and her black and tan coat was thinning and dirty – but she had a drive and a spunk that couldn’t be ignored. Now, one organization is preparing Hope for a career as a police K-9.
Carol Skaziak adopted Hope and began working with her during a nine-week rehabilitation training process. Her ambitious goal was to take a stray of unknown skill and give her a future with a purpose that she could be proud of. It is an uncertain undertaking with no promise of success – a feat that most people wouldn’t even consider.
But Skaziak isn’t the average person. She’s a dog lover and a Good Samaritan. Skaziak is the cofounder of Throw Away Dogs Project, a nonprofit based in Huntingdon Valley. She cofounded the organization with SEPTA Transit Police Officer Jason Walters, who is a K-9 handler.
Skaziak knew nothing about Hope, but decided she would work with her and hope for the best (no pun intended). She renamed the dog Rousey, after popular mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey. In October, she and Walters delivered Rousey to the Winchester Police Department in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Although the dog has been through a thorough evaluation and extensive training, her journey is far from over. She will still be required to complete six months of formal K-9 training. Still, she’s come a long way for a dog with no chance at all just a few months ago.
Did I mention that Throw Away Dogs gave Rousey to the department for free?
Yes, that’s right. Normally, trained police dogs cost anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000, and they usually come from elite breeding facilities. The mission of Throw Away Dogs Project is to find suitable dogs from rescue organizations and shelters, and donate them to small agencies in need.
There is no better feeling than saving a dog’s life and giving them a job, [and] helping out our family in blue.” – Carol Skaziak
The task isn’t an easy one. Working dogs range from police K-9s to bomb sniffing dogs working for the Department of Defense. Law enforcement agencies have strict considerations when looking for a dog to add to their team. A substandard dog is a liability. If he doesn’t perform correctly it could cost lives.
It might be a sure bet to purchase a top quality dog with impressive blood lines, but many small police departments cannot afford to spend that much money. Throw Away Dogs intends to fill that need – even if it’s just one dog at a time for now.
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The nonprofit was started in 2014, and they were able to give away two dogs last year. One went to work at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and the other now works at the police department in Lawrence, Indiana. They did have one dog that was unsuccessful with the Maryland State Police and was adopted out instead.
Skaziak is working with four dogs right now for possible placement. She is hoping to gain corporate sponsors as the nonprofit receives more recognition. Her long-term goal is to build a Throw Away Dogs ranch, but until then she and Walters make ends meet with the help of Facebook supporters and donations through their website.