K9 For a Day, a community engagement program initiated by the New Smyrna Beach Police Department, is hoped to increase shelter dog adoption and charitable donations.
Police Chief Mike Coffin said about the Southeast Volusia Humane Society, “They’re an amazing group of people and really, if we can help them and then get the animals here adopted to forever homes, that would be awesome.”
Society Executive Director Sara Wees explained the overall goals of K9 For a Day.
“It is aimed at adoption, but it's also aimed at community engagement,” Ms. Wees said. “We want people to know that we're here, and if you aren't prepared to adopt a pet at this time, you can volunteer, you can donate your time, you can donate financially, we need some shelter supplies, food, bedding, all kinds of stuff, so it's just a way for the residents to be able to get involved in their local shelter.”
New Smyrna Beach residents and visitors will be seeing police with a pooch on a regular basis. The expectation is K9 For a Day will happen more than once a month, possibly weekly, depending on officer and dog availability.
The program was launched March 31. Officer Tanner Snow and shelter dog Apollo were the first to patrol the community. They were a hit at the pet-friendly Island Roasters Coffee Co. Apollo didn’t get to sip the coffee, but was given snacks by the barista that he washed down with water from a dog bowl near the front entrance.
Customers took the time to pet and photograph Apollo while talking about adopting a dog.
“Oh, it's a beautiful dog, beautiful Staffordshire, so definitely just sent a picture to my wife, but, you know, it's a n.o. for now but, but maybe in the future for sure,” said John, who was sitting outside with a friend, Raul, who was considering adopting Apollo if his wife would OK it.
Police Chief Coffin had picked up on Ms. Wees describing K9 for a Day as a win-win,
He said, “You know I think there's a lot of folks out there that I mean, look, this (pointing to his uniform) is just a little bit intimidating when people see us as we walk out here, but you take a dog like Apollo and put him on the end of the lead and take him out there and socialize with people I think people are naturally going to want to be more social with us as well, so it helps our community engagement efforts and police department.”
When asked if this was another tool in New Smyrna Beach Police’s community policing efforts, Chief Coffin replied, “I mean, community policing is what we're all about. But the most important part of community policing is community engagement, you know, getting officers out of the cars and talking to residents and visitors and find out what's going on.”
At the program launch, Chief Coffin noted his department just had 250 service calls in a 24-hour period.
“The overwhelming majority of those calls that we run all end up in a positive experience for people out there in the community and then, unfortunately the narrative now, both nationally and across the country, is that you know law enforcement is not good,” he said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth. My officers; they're doing a fabulous job and then a lot of the things that they do really go unnoticed. So, this is what I'm saying we want to get out here and do something positive, both for the shelter and for us.”
Officer Snow recapped the experience on the police department’s Facebook page, “What an incredible day I had with Apollo! He is such an amazing dog and one of the most behaved good boys. He had a fun day with lots of belly rubs, treats, ice cream and more!”
Executive Director Wees said not only is it fun for the dogs, but it is also beneficial.
“It helps them to socialize with people they don't know,” she said. “You know, they get to know us really well and they're comfortable with us, but when they go out in the public and they're meeting strangers. It just helps them to be more adoptable later on so when they get into their forever home and those people have friends come over, they're like' 'oh yeah these are just new people, no problem.' It helps them just become more social.”
The society is not just for dogs. They also welcome cats and occasionally have a bird, ferret, guinea pig, hamster, lizard, mouse, opossum, rabbit, raccoon or rat available for adoption. For more information, visit sevhumanesociety.org/.