Furry Friends, the Jupiter animal shelter and clinic, is teaming up with Jupiter police to offer free healthcare services for the department’s retired K-9 officers.
JUPITER — Trips to the veterinarian don’t often come cheap.
Preliminary work on a dog could run about $700, says Pat Deshong, president of Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch. Add in surgeries and your bill may be in the thousands, she said.
But through a new program called Operation Blue, Furry Friends will now waive those costs and offer free healthcare services for retired Jupiter police K-9s.
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The first retired Jupiter police K-9 to reap those benefits, K-9 Ike, had his first check-up with a vet Wednesday morning at Furry Friends’ new facility at 100 Capital St. An April grand opening is planned for the no-kill shelter’s new home, though its clinic is already open.
K-9 Ike, a 10-year-old, 80-pound German shepherd who retired last year after a seven-year career in patrols and drug searches, is one of two surviving department K-9s currently in retirement. A third, K-9 Jimi, died last month,
Jupiter police has another five K-9s in active service, said spokeswoman Kristin Rightler. They are involved in a variety of work, including searches for missing people and drugs and catching suspects, Maj. Adam Hirsch said.
Although the town pays for K-9 healthcare while they are with the department, Hirsch said costs typically fall on handlers once the dogs retires. Operation Blue will likely cover at least $600 in annual expenses per dog, Deshong estimated.
"It’s a tremendous burden taken off the (handler’s) responsibility," Hirsch said of the Furry Friends program.
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It was important for the no-kill shelter to do what it could to assist local law enforcement, Deshong said, especially because of the critical role K-9s often have in police activity.
She referenced K-9 Cigo, the Palm Beach County sheriff’s K-9 killed in December 2018 when deputies tried to arrest two men on attempted murder charges.
"K-9 officers are often the first ones to rush into danger, risking their lives," Deshong said. "And they’re instrumental in what our police officers do every day for us."
Operation Blue will cover services that include yearly exams, blood work, surgeries, flea and tick prevention and ultrasounds, Deshong said.
Hirsch pointed out that many police K-9s are German shepherds, a breed susceptible to hip problems later in life.
"We’ve never had this done for us before. We are extremely appreciative," Hirsch said. "Veterinary care is extremely expensive and these K-9s do so much for our community, protect all of our citizens. So it’s such a great asset."