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Fallen Police Dogs Honored as

June 12, 2011

Thank you to the Western Police Canine Association for the following announcement:

On June 15th the California Law Enforcement K-9 “Faithful Partner” Memorial will be held at the "Faithful Partner" Monument at UC Davis. California law enforcement K-9s that have been lost in the line of duty will be remembered for their courage and honored for their service.

Members of the public are invited to the ceremony.

A full honor guard, pipers and a motorcade will be followed by a large procession of over 60 police and sheriff’s K-9 teams. K-9 units will be coming from around the state to pay tribute to these brave police dogs and the courageous service that they have given in protecting our communities.

The monument, which features a life-sized bronze German shepherd dog on a black granite star, is a testament to the strong bond of affection and loyalty between police dogs and their officers and is dedicated to the memory of California law enforcement dogs whose lives have been lost in the line of duty.

The monument currently displays plaques honoring 34 K-9s that lost their lives while serving our state between 1960 and 2009. Five more K-9s will be added to the monument and honored at the ceremony. 

The heroic stories of two of these K-9s, Palm Springs Police Department K-9 Ike and Ventura Police Department K-9 Sonny, are recounted below.

Palm Springs Police Department K-9 Ike, a loyal lifesaver

On April 17, 2011, two Palm Springs Police Officers recognized a dangerous, wanted parolee while they were on patrol.  The officers went after the suspect and struggled to detain him, but he was able to break free. At this point, Officer Luciano Colantuono released his K9 partner Ike. As K9 Ike attempted to apprehend the suspect, he produced a handgun and shot multiple rounds striking both the officer and his K-9 partner and killing K-9 Ike. The two officers returned fire killing the suspect.

Ike joined the department in April 2009 and was a hard worker. K9 Ike and his handler conducted 259 area searches, 92 building searches, responded to more than 300 burglary and robbery alarms, and apprehended, or assisted in the apprehension of 30 suspects.

Ike was the first K9 to die in the line of duty in the police department's history.  He was honored at a local ceremony which was attended by more than 300 people, including 40 K-9 teams from around the state on May 3, 2011. Ike's loss was felt by every officer at the Palm Springs Police Department. Palm Springs police issued a statement calling K9 Ike "the ultimate friend, a loyal member of his handler's family and in the end – a lifesaver".

A special K-9 from the past helped change the law: K-9 Sonny from the Ventura Police Department

On August 26, 1984, Officer Vern Alstot and his K9 partner Sonny, along with two other officers, were in pursuit of a wanted and armed parolee, who had kidnapped his ex-girlfriend. While being chased, the suspect fled his vehicle and K9 Sonny was deployed in an effort to apprehend him. As Sonny got close, the suspect drew a gun and fired two rounds, fatally wounding Sonny. The suspect surrendered shortly thereafter and was taken into custody. He subsequently pled guilty and served six months of a one-year sentence.

At the time, it was only a misdemeanor to harm a police dog.  As a result of this incident, in 1985 California State Senator Robert Presley successfully introduced an amendment to Section 600 of the California State Penal Code (PC), which made the killing of any police animal a felony.

In tribute to Sonny's service and sacrifice, Ventura patrol cars will be displaying a sticker commemorating the anniversary of his loss. Former VPD Officer Vern Alstot, who is now retired from service as Battalion Chief Ventura Fire Department stated, "I am overwhelmed and deeply touched by the actions of the VPD's K9 Team in choosing to honor Sonny's passing in this way. Even after twenty-five years it is still hard for me to appropriately describe the connection an officer develops with their canine partner, and I will never forget his dedication and loyalty."

About the Western States Police Canine Association

The WSPCA is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting strong police K9 programs and training to enhance law enforcement services. Our mission is to promote professionalism and safety for all working police K-9 teams.  We strive to achieve this mission in many ways: by sponsoring an annual K-9 Conference and Training Seminar, sanctioning K-9 Competitions which emphasize the importance of control and safe tactics while encountering street-like scenarios and providing a forum for K-9 handlers and trainers to exchange ideas for best practices in K-9 training and teamwork.

The WSPCA sponsors the California Law Enforcement K-9 “Faithful Partner” Memorial to honor the law enforcement K-9s in the State of California who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The bronze German Shepherd Dog on the monument was designed by Susan Bahary and serves as a reminder of the courage of our law enforcement dogs. The “Faithful Partner” K-9 Memorial pays tribute to the bravery and valor of the police, sheriff’s and other law enforcement dogs who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our communities.

The WSPCA works with the “Cover Your K-9” Fund of the Police and Working K-9 Foundation to keep California K-9s safe by providing bullet-proof vests to protect them while they are at working protecting us. More than 80 police and sheriff’s K-9s in Northern California have received custom-fit bullet-proof vests from the “Cover Your K-9” Fund in the past two years.

For more information on the WSPCA: 

About "Faithful Partner" and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

The "Faithful Partner" memorial, erected in 2002 at the School of Veterinary Medicine, honors California law enforcement dogs killed in the line of duty. "Faithful Partner" was made possible by the late Bill Balaban, a long-time friend of the school whose interest in the health and well-being of animals led him to donate funds to design and build the memorial.

The monument enjoys a prominent place near the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital where faculty members treat more than 35,000 animals every year while teaching essential clinical skills to veterinary students and training veterinary specialty residents. Faculty, staff, and students have had ample opportunity to witness the special bond between canine officers and their human partners during these encounters. Numerous police dogs over the years have received veterinary treatment for illnesses or work-related injuries requiring emergency treatment, intensive care, surgery, physical rehabilitation, kidney hemodialysis and other specialized services. 

The "Cover Your K-9" Fund of the Police and Working K-9 Foundation, or PAW K-9, is non-profit corporation working to keep K-9 teams "covered" with safety equipment, training and emergency medical care for retired K-9s. Funds are raised with the help of Pet Food Express and its customers along with the help of law enforcement K-9 teams and individual donors. With assistance from K-9 handlers and K-9 Tactical Gear, the “Cover Your K-9” Fund has worked to design a new high tech, ultra-mobile custom-fit bullet-proof vest for K-9s. To date more than 80 California police and sheriff’s K-9s have been provided with these highly specialized vests, including K-9s from the Oakland PD, the Contra Costa County Sheriff, San Mateo County Sheriff, Alameda County Sheriff, Santa Clara County Sheriff, the Petaluma Police Department, the South San Francisco Police Department and many other agencies in Northern California. By the end of 2011, "Cover Your K-9" will work with communities to provide these new high tech bullet-proof vests to more than 100 California K-9s.