Police dogs, also known as K9s, risk their lives to protect and assist law enforcement personnel. Their duties include tracking criminals, searching for drugs and explosives, finding missing people, and sniffing out crime scene evidence. But what happens when they retire?
Heroes that deserve only the best care
Appreciating the service of retired K-9s (police dog), an idea sparked over a family gathering and a few drinks between Filipino Chelsea Pecson and Maxin Arcebal. “Then came our Eureka moment. The idea of rehabilitating and rehoming retired working dogs!” shared Chelsea.
Growing up in a family of dog lovers, it was always their dream to run an animal shelter. The dream came true in 2016 for both, and Maxin became the president of Hound Haven. Also hopping on board was Chelsea’s university friend, Addi Dela Cruz who is currently in charge of the shelter’s marketing.
Located in the Philippines, the idea of ‘Hound Haven K-9 Retirement and Rehabilitation Centre’ was for retired K-9 to undergo a rehabilitation program designed by canine-training experts. “This will help the dogs adapt to human interaction, address any potential aggression from their experience in service, and prepare them for adoption to a loving home,” said Chelsea.
The land that houses the shelter is more than 1,200sqm, thanks to generous donors, the team were able to build a hound’s haven with spacious kennels, a dog clinic, dog training grounds, even a swimming pool designed specifically for dogs, and other amenities, to name a few.
It is said that an average working dog works for about eight to 15 years — which is more than half of their lives — in service to humans. Hence, the team behind Hound Haven hope to be able to cater to the many retired working dogs.
“Currently, there is no law that enforces a standard retirement programme for the country’s working dogs. This means that it’s entirely up to the organisations that employ K-9s to decide what to do with them after retirement,” shared Chelsea.
According to her, most of these retired dogs spent the remainder of their lives in cages after their service is over. “We feel that retired K-9s deserve so much more since they have dedicated half of their lives for national security.”
Therefore, Hound Haven’s ultimate goal is to influence public policy and replicate Robby’s Law (United States of America H.R. 5314) in the country, which promotes the transfer and adoption of working dogs at the end of their service. “After all, for man’s best friend, no medal could ever replace the comfort of home and the love of family,” said Chelsea.
Being a non-profit organisation, sustaining the shelter while creating awareness is vital. For that, Addi shared that they have done numerous initiatives, “ from bake sales of homemade dog treats, to benefit brunches and movie screenings, to partnering with retail companies for on-ground events.”
Advocating for retired K-9s, Addi hopes to see the dogs, who have worked all their lives, to be adopted into a loving home and family. “We recognise that there are other segments in animal welfare that need help, but we believe that we could bring the most value for this one cause that no other organisation, at least in the Philippines, is doing something about.”
To date, they managed to get 14 K9s adopted, while 10 dogs are currently housed at the centre (eight K9s and two rescues). Among them are Nikita, an 8-year-old bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois; Buddy, an 11-year-old tracker Labrador Retriever, and others.
One prominent K9 among the others is Lotto. He is an 11-year-old tracker dog who was injured during duty. As a result, he lost his right forelimb.
With all the time spent at Hound Haven, Chelsea and her team said that it has changed them as a person. “Building and constantly putting the work in for Hound Haven has allowed us a better understanding of ourselves and each other’s strengths, knowing that contributing something good does not have to mean doing a lot of good things at the same time.”