Non-profit rescues pit bulls and trains them to be police K-9s

Pit bull mixes in an Austin shelter are getting a second chance at life training to work as police K-9's. Ten dogs are now at departments across the United States.

K-9 handler Wes Keeling guides drug dog Remi around a truck. It’s just practice. When she's on the clock, she helps keeling keep drugs off the streets of Midlothian.

"She's found drugs in doors, gas tanks, spare tires, engine compartments,” Keeling said.

Universal K-9 adopted Remi from an animal shelter in Canyon Lake. She was one day away from being euthanized.

"No one wanted her because of the traditional pit bull look,” said Keeling. "She's also a mix with lab, but she's got a lot of pit bull in her and because of that people get scared because of the stigma of pit bulls."

Since 2010, the San Antonio based non-profit has rescued dogs from shelters like Austin Pets Alive!
Ten dogs have been adopted there. Five more dogs are being prepped for adoption.

"They really understand what we've been saying all along. It doesn't matter what the dog looks like, it doesn't matter what his breed is. It's just can he do the work,” said Mike Kaviani.

Universal K-9 Operations Director Brad Croft's initial focus was not breed specific, but lately he's increased his focus on pit bull mixes.

"Pit bulls can work just the same as any dog, German Shepard, Belgian Malinois.  In fact, in some cases a lot better,” said Croft.

There are many success stories. Batman, from the Austin Pets Alive! shelter now works for Lancaster ISD police department as a drug detection dog. K-9 Wilson from another shelter made two significant drug busts within days of working for the Normangee Police Department near college station.

Croft looks forward to giving even more animals purpose.

"It's indescribable. It gives me goosebumps to think about it because We're saving these dogs and we're saving people too. It's fantastic,” said Croft.

Universal K-9 trains the dogs for free. All departments pay for is the officer training. That cost can vary from $3 to $4-thousand dollars. Croft says a pure-bred trained dog can cost anywhere from $10 on up to $16-thousand dollars.

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