Photo courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation
The moment Brad Coft saw Kiah, a 90-pound Pit Bull, he knew she had what it took to become a full-fledged police dog. “[When I saw her,] she was jumping up and down like 5 feet in the air. I was like, ‘Wow, this dog has a lot of energy.’”
Brad frequently visits shelters looking for dogs to put through an 8-week training course offered at Universal K9—an organization that saves and trains shelter dogs to donate to law enforcement agencies nationwide. Brad, the operations director, often visits the animal shelter in Kirby, Texas, looking for dogs to recruit. But this time, it was the shelter who reached out to Brad. “You’ve got to come see this dog,” they said.
Once the shelter noticed Kiah, they knew she would be perfect for the police dog program. “They’ve watched me test dogs before. It’s nothing new to them,” he says. Brad looks to recruit dogs who are energetic, driven and focused. After Brad took Kiah out to do some tests, she appeared to excel at all three of those requirements.
Before Kiah arrived at the shelter, she had received a blow to the head with a hammer, and ended up with a cracked skull. Brad was blown away at Kiah’s playful and unguarded attitude despite her troubled past. “She displayed absolutely no aggression—not towards dog food or toys, and not towards other dogs or other people. I was absolutely amazed by that,” he said. Brad decided to take her, and brought her back to San Antonio, Texas, for training at Universal K9.
The program started with teaching Kiah to use her nose, a vital sense that Brad noticed she wasn’t utilizing as much. “I would throw a tennis ball, and she would look for it with her eyes. [To train her,] I would throw in places where she had to search for it with her nose,” he said. Once she started using her nose, she was taught to associate certain odors with other things. Then, she was taught to search in “productive areas,” meaning areas that she would be searching on the job (cabinets, etc.). The final objective was teaching Kiah to locate missing people. “She excelled at everything we tried to teach. Everybody loved her,” Brad said.
Everyone at Universal K9 who knew Kiah saw that she was super driven and strong. “No one walked Kiah; she walked them. She was a lot of dog,” he said.
After graduating from Universal K9, Kiah was proudly donated to the City of Poughkeepsie Police Department to work alongside Officer Justin Bruzgul as a narcotics and missing persons detection dog—and the first Pit Bull police dog. “[Justin] and Kiah are doing fantastic. She’s probably the top dog that they have … They have good dogs, but they’re not Kiah. She has a gift,” Brad said. According to the Animal Farm Foundation Facebook page, Kiah and Justin also visit schools and conferences to educate the public about the importance of animal shelters and animal rescues.
This past November, Kiah received the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Public Service Award in New York City as the first Pit Bull police dog in the state of New York.
Since placing Kiah in the police department over one year ago, Brad has placed over 30 Pit Bulls in police programs with the help of the Animal Farm Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that helps rescue and re-home animals. According to Brad, there are over 10 in class now, with another several Pit Bulls expected to attend the class in June.
The inspiration to work with this breed came from the amazing Pit Bulls he would meet in shelters, but would have trouble placing because of the stereotype that Pit Bulls are aggressive and violent creatures. “The stigma was holding me back,” he said. “I’ve never been bitten by a Pit Bull or remotely attacked. The majority of them don’t want to do that. They are the exact opposite of what people paint them to be.”
Brad wants people to understand that these dogs can be anything you want them to be. If you want them to be a loving dog, they can be that and more. “They have so much energy and they need something to do with it. When you have dogs like that, and you give them a purpose, it changes their life,” he said.
Samantha Schwab, Junior Editor
As an aspiring cat mom, Samantha Schwab can be found mining keywords, meticulously editing Pet Central blog posts or standing at her desk (usually all three!). An espresso shot and kitty cuddles are the only things that stand between Samantha and conquering the (pet) world!