5 min read

After Years Of Loyalty, Police Dog Was Slated To Be Euthanized

A police dog named Rex, at 9 years old, had served his time on the force and was ready to retire. But his fate hung in the balance.

Because of the vigorous training police dogs receive, it can be hard for them to return to the community and lead normal lives.

One solution sometimes employed is to give the dog to his handler, but in Rex's case his handler, who had a young child at home, couldn't take him. Complicating the issue, too, was Rex's presence at a controversial police shooting in March 2014.

The Albuquerque Police Department announced Rex's retirement on Monday, and now he's living at Animal Services. When news came out that, without a place to go, he could be euthanized, hearts broke all over town.

"It's heartbreaking for all of us ... especially his handler," Celina Espinoza, the Albuquerque Police Department's communications director, told NPR. "Both he and Rex have served the city hand in hand for many years." She explained to the Associated Press why euthanizing Rex was a possibility: The police "don't want him to live in a kennel situation the rest of his life, and we don't want him in a home where the owners don't understand what he is communicating and then turn him back into animal services," Espinoza said.

Some people were skeptical of how sad the police department really was. "They claim to be 'heartbroken.' In truth, they are unfeeling," author Nathan Winograd wrote on Facebook. "This represents the ultimate betrayal to a dog who was forced into police work, forced to put his life on the line, and yet, like any dog, faithfully served those around him."

But then a miracle seemed to unfold: A whole community began to come together to save Rex. Sanctuaries and shelters stepped forward, offering helping hands. "We did have quite an outpouring of support from sanctuaries that wanted to work with us," Espinoza told the Associated Press.

As of Tuesday, the police department seemed to have changed its plans for Rex, and Police Chief Gorden Eden plans to interview representatives of the different rescue facilities to determine which is the best fit for Rex, The Albuquerque Journal reported.

Sadly, the welfare of animals is not always a top priority in policing and military operations. According to Save A Vet, an organization that works to rescue former police and military dogs, nearly 1,100 dogs were euthanized after their service from 2001-2011.

Learn how you can help former police dogs here.

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