Former Yakima Police Officer starts foundation to help retired police dogs
YAKIMA, Wash. - Former Yakima Police Officer Jason Johnson started Project K-9 Hero about a year and a half ago.
He has trained more than 1,500 K-9s around the country and when he noticed these working dogs were not being taken care of after retirement, he wanted to do something about it.
"I decided to start a foundation with the help of my retired Yakima K-9 dog Flash,” he said. “To start taking care of dogs in retirement, making sure they have the funds available to them that were needed for a long, healthy life."
When police K-9s retire, their financial expenses become the owner's responsibility. Johnson said most of the time these families can't afford those costs.
Johnson said Project K-9 Hero helps provide $3,000 in medical care for dogs in the program, along with food and help with cremation and burial costs when the K-9s pass on.
One local dog Project K-9 Hero helps is a retired narcotics K-9 from Ellensburg.
Ringo is one of the K-9's a part of the foundation, he retired four years ago, from the Washington State Patrol and worked in the narcotics division. He celebrated his 15th birthday this past Monday.
Ringo began working in 2004 with his handler Paul Woodside.
Woodside said Ringo would go to work with him every day and search cars, homes or other property where police felt drugs were present.
"He has a lot of great success and he has been personally responsible for seizing thousands of pounds of drugs and millions of dollars in U.S. drug money," he said.
Johnson and Woodside trained as handlers together and Johnson contacted him to be a part of the foundation.
When Ringo retired, he developed a medical condition that would have caused him to suffocate if he didn't have surgery.
Woodside and his family has a tough decision to make, but were able to come up with $3,500 for the procedure.
"That's where Project K-9 Hero comes in and helps families like ours take care of these costs so the burden is not on us,” Woodside said.
There are currently 25 dogs in the program but Johnson said there is a waiting list for 30 more. He said he hopes to add at least four more dogs to the foundation this year.
Johnson also wants to expand the foundation internationally and help dogs in Canada, Mexico and even Australia.
For more information on Project K-9 Hero or how to donate, you can visit projectk9hero.org.