Ill. town leads paramedic training for police, civilian dogs

Paramedics practiced putting dogs under anesthesia, inserting breathing tubes, setting up intravenous fluids, bandaging, using oxygen masks and shaving fur to find veins

By Rick Kambic
The Pioneer Press Newspapers

MUNDELEIN, Ill. — Mundelein paramedic Kurtis Roman participated in a training session on June 8 that was a bit out of the ordinary.

"It's eerily similar to helping humans because dogs mostly have the same parts as a human, just different shapes and sizes and sometimes in different places," Roman said.

The training, and the canine treatment effort it supports, was approved by state officials after Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther led the charge in hopes of better protecting his recently acquired K-9 officer Titan.

"We ask a lot of 'what if' questions in law enforcement as a way to create preventative measures or to be prepared heading into a situation," Guenther said. "This was no different. We asked ourselves, 'What if Titan gets hurt?'"

Previously, if Titan were to get injured officers would place him in a squad car and rush him to a 24-hour animal hospital in Grayslake, according to officer Steve Kroll, Titan's handler.

After doing some research, Guenther determined state law prohibits animals from being in ambulances unless they're service dogs. He said it's a sanitation issue.

Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the topic of treating and transporting sworn K-9 officers had not been raised until Mundelein contacted the state over a month ago.

If no humans are in need of an ambulance for treatment or transport, the paramedics are now allowed to use it to help a police dog, according to Arnold. However, the vehicle must be thoroughly disinfected before returning to regular duty.

"It will always be human life first and K-9 officer second," Mundelein Deputy Fire Chief Ben Yoder said. "With that being said, now that we're getting this training we can always put an available paramedic in a squad car with the injured K-9."

Guenther, who is also in charge of the fire department, said Yoder's team could treat civilian dogs that might be injured as well.

"Now that we have these skills, why not use them?" Guenther said. "If our guys can provide first aid to domestic pets before their owners can go to the vet then we're going the extra mile and that's what I think our community deserves."

Arnold said the state allows municipalities to have paramedics treat civilian dogs so long as humans are being taken care of and the animals are not inside ambulances.

Veterinarian Alexis Newman of Partners and Paws Veterinary Services, who is Titan's regular doctor, led the June 8 training at Mundelein's fire station, and two others that were held in May.

Mundelein extended an open invitation to all fire departments and representatives from Libertyville, Waukegan, Wauconda and the Countryside Fire Protection District, among others, attended the training sessions.

"They know the medicine and equipment, so we took the time to show them the dog stuff," Newman said. "You have to work around their mannerisms and fears more than you would with a person."

Paramedics practiced putting dogs under anesthesia, inserting breathing tubes, setting up intravenous fluids, bandaging, using oxygen masks and shaving fur to find veins, among other tasks.

Libertyville's police department does not have a K-9 officer, but Libertyville Fire Chief Rich Carani said his teams often goes to Mundelein as backup and their dog may one day need help. Furthermore, he said Libertyville paramedics have treated civilian animals on occasion.

"I support any training that is new and fire-related," Carani said. "Also, the sheriff has three dogs, and we service 21 square miles of sheriff-protected area so we may be helping them if an emergency occurred."

Detective Christopher Covelli, a spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said the three K-9 deputies were acquired in early 2015 and are assigned to highway patrol, but they're often called to assist with other investigations by the sheriff's department and other agencies. He said a fourth dog that specializes in bomb detection will soon join the team.

K-9 deputy Duke bit a suspect on May 31 when the man was struggling with officers, but Covelli said none of the dogs themselves have been injured thus far.

"Our canines play a vital role in keeping us safe," Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose said. "We are grateful that paramedics are now being trained on saving them, if they become injured in the line-of-duty."

Newman said she's the veterinarian for many police departments throughout Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and she networks with other veterinarians as well.

"There are some police departments that treat their dogs as sworn officers, but others treat them like equipment that's expendable," Newman said. "Mundelein has made a big difference here, and for the good."

Copyright 2016 Pioneer Press Newspapers

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