When his K9 partner Titan was critically injured attempting to apprehend a suspect in January of this year, San Diego Police Department Officer Javier Morales rushed him to the hospital that he knew had the experienced staff and most advanced technology to save his life: VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center (EAHRC) in San Diego.

Many VCA Animal hospitals treat working dogs of all kinds, who play a special role in our society. Some of our hospitals, like VCA EAHRC, have special relationships with local police departments, caring for the canine heroes who protect and serve their communities. In celebration of this month's National K9 Veterans Day, which commemorates the service and sacrifices of American military and working dogs, we honor K9 Officers Titan and Riley, two especially heroic VCA patients.

K9 Officer Titan

Police dogs are a very special kind of working dog. They possess an intense work ethic and loyalty to their human partners, who they will protect at all costs. This very special bond is especially evident between Officer Morales and K9 Officer Titan.

“Titan has been my partner for two and a half years,” says Officer Morales. “We spend a lot of time together – week in, week out, it’s a minimum of 40 hours together in a car, usually more. He comes home with me and we hang out. He’s my best friend and my partner.”

Titan, a four year-old Belgian Malinois, was stabbed when he attempted to apprehend a suspect armed with two knives. Officer Morales rushed Titan to VCA EAHRC, where he had emergency surgery to repair his colon, which had been lacerated in 3 places. Officer Morales faithfully stayed at the hospital throughout the six hour surgery and for the three days of in-hospital recovery that followed.

Staff at VCA EAHRC arranged for Officer Morales to stay in an exam room that was not being used while Titan recovered. When he was released, the staff gave Titan a hero’s send off, walking him out to say goodbye. Officer Morales is hopeful that Titan will be able to return to work in a few months.

“VCA provided top tier veterinary care for Titan, which was to be expected,” says Officer Morales. “But they went above and beyond in the care and compassion they showed myself and our K-9 unit. They didn’t just treat a dog, they treated my partner.”

Holly Mullen, DVM, DACVS, is the surgical specialist who saved Titan’s life. She says she is honored to have treated Titan and many other K9 officers throughout her career.

“The K9 officers put themselves in danger just like their human partners, and there is a certain nobility in their service – a purity of intent,” she says. “I’m grateful to have the skills to help these special dogs so they can continue to serve the community.”

K9 Officer Riley

On January 18, Sacramento Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Gibson and K9 Officer Riley were shot and killed in a shootout with a suspect. Riley was a patient at VCA Sunset Animal Medical Center in Fair Oaks, CA, where he received care through a partnership between the hospital and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

“Since the handlers bring the dogs in for their regular preventive care, we get to know them and their K9 partners really well,” says Jessica Monroe, Hospital Manager at VCA Sunset. “We sometimes invite them to the hospital for events, like when we had the Kona Ice truck visit this past September.”

VCA Sunset staff was devastated when they heard the news that Officer Gibson and their patient Riley had been killed.

“We have such a deep respect for the K9s and their handlers, for putting their lives on the line to keep us safe,” says Jessica. “There were a lot of tears in our hospital the day Officer Gibson and Riley were killed.”

On January 19, VCA Sunset was privileged to be the final destination of a procession of police officers and fire fighters honoring the life of K9 Officer Riley. Riley’s partner was injured in the same shootout that killed him. Once he was released from the hospital, VCA Sunset made sure he had the opportunity to say goodbye to his K9 partner.

VCA Sunset, VCA Loomis Basin, and VCA Sacramento Veterinary Referral Center and other VCA hospitals in the area work closely with the many working dogs in the surrounding communities. It is always a priority for VCA to be available to provide routine, as well as state-of-the-art critical care for all K9 officers should the need arise.

Proud Partners of Law Enforcement

VCA Animal Hospitals is proud to partner with many law enforcement agencies across the country, providing care and support to K9 officers. From routine preventative needs to life-saving emergency care and everything in between, we’re there for our K9 heroes. Some of our law enforcement relationships extend beyond the hospitals, like VCA’s 25 year partnership with the San Diego Police Foundation, which includes event and educational program sponsorship, as well as monetary support for K9 equipment and training. 

VCA sends our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to our law enforcement heroes – human and canine – for all they do to keep our communities safe. It is our honor to be able to help them.

We believe that K9 officers, like human officers, deserve the best possible care when injured in the line of duty.  Learn how Dr. Kevin Smith of VCA Hyannis is leading change in Massachusetts with Nero's Law.

“VCA Animal Hospitals is proud to partner with many law enforcement agencies across the country, providing discounted care to K9 officers. ”