Pittsburgh's newest police dog brings bite back to force

The newest member of the Pittsburgh police K-9 unit took a running dash toward a sergeant Monday morning and latched onto his arm until his handler congratulated him.

Moments later, Ari, a 16-month-old German shepherd from the Netherlands, grinned while acting Sgt. Dan Tice, who had by then removed his protective bite suit, petted him on the head.

The dog, donated to the bureau from a local security company, had run the exercise inside a few times before. But he had never tried it outside until he demonstrated for a group of reporters Monday morning.

Pittsburgh police introduce newest member of K-9 corps

Pittsburgh police today introduced Ari, a 16-month-old German Shepherd from the Netherlands, who will begin training next week at the bureau's K-9 facility in Highland Park. (Video by Nate Guidry; 5/19/2014)

"What you see here is a raw drive in this European dog," Officer Ronald Absten said. "That's him right out of the box."

Ari will begin training next week alongside five other dogs, including Beny, who was donated after the death of Pittsburgh police K-9 Rocco. Rocco died earlier this year after he was stabbed while trying to apprehend a suspect.

Sgt. Tice said officers in the K-9 unit tested Ari for several factors -- including courage, comfort around gunshots and his ability to focus on the task at hand -- at Shallow Creek Kennels in Mercer County and he displayed all the necessary qualities.

"It's a job," he said. "They love it. Instead of chasing a rabbit or a car, they're chasing us."

The dog cost $7,000 and was donated by Sharpsburg-based security firm Am-Gard, whose chief operating officer said she loves dogs and wanted to help the city after she learned of Rocco's death.

"Rocco's story really was even more personal for me," COO Jennifer Buczar said. "This was just a small token of our appreciation for our heroes."

Ari has been paired with first-time K-9 Officer Logan Hanley. The two will complete a 12-week course and by the end Ari will be trained to patrol and to detect explosives.

Sgt. Tice said the bureau will use money raised from the sale of Rocco T-shirts to buy bullet- and stab-resistant vests for 13 or 14 K-9 officers. He said the vests will be used in high-risk situations and cost between $900 and $1,300.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1438. First Published May 19, 2014 11:55 AM

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