NYPD’s canine corps grows by leaps and bounds

Police DogThe New York City Police Department increased its canine force from 60 to more than 100 dogs in the past decade, and the animals are part of the department’s bomb squad, Transit Bureau, narcotics unit and Emergency Service Unit. The department’s German shepherds can be equipped with cameras to relay information, and they live with their handlers. Daily News (New York)

The NYPD is going to the dogs.

The department has slashed the number of officers by 17% over the past 12 years, but its force of crimefighting canines has nearly doubled over that same period.

“The K-9 units have expanded, especially over the last five years or so, and there are no plans to stop that,” said police spokesman Detective Martin Speechley.

He declined to give the exact number of pooch protectors on the force, citing security concerns.

There are over a hundred police dogs serving in different NYPD agencies, a source says.

But more than 100 dogs now work in the Transit Bureau, narcotics, the bomb squad and Emergency Service Unit, according to sources. That’s up from about 60 a decade ago.

The growing furry force is part of a larger law-enforcement trend nationwide and in the military.

Many of the NYPD’s German shepherds can carry cameras on their backs to check out suspicious packages or give officers an inside view of a hostage standoff.

The dogs all come from Eastern Europe when they are between 18 months and 2 years old.

“That’s the perfect time to see if they have any psychological issues, and it’s early enough for us to train them,” Speechley said.

As for officer staffing, the NYPD has dropped from its high of 41,000 at the end of the Giuliani administration to approximately 34,000 today.

The starting pay for police officers is $41,975, which rises to $76,488 after 5½ years.

But it only costs about $1,000 to feed each dog annually.

And the NYPD wants to cut that expense too.

Earlier this month, the department began to look for a new wholesale food provider, records show.

Last year, the NYPD used $100,000 in federal grants to buy two kennel trucks equipped with spacious spots for dogs to hang out during an extended tour.

The dog’s handlers bring them home at the end of each shift. And adopt them upon retirement when they get too old to patrol.

The NYPD isn’t the only local agency with an expanding K-9 force.

The MTA’s police canine unit is one of the largest in the U.S., with 50 dogs in active duty patrolling the LIRR, Metro-North and Staten Island Railway stations.

The pooches are not immune to the dangers of the job.

In June, NYPD police dog Bear required surgery for fractured teeth after a wild subway brawler booted him in the mouth.

The injury occurred as the courageous dog came to the aid of a fellow officer trying to break up a fight among four women at the 4 line station at E. 59th St. and Lexington Ave.

rblau@nydailynews.com

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