PITTSBURGH (KDKA)– They may be cute and cuddly, but they can be the difference between life and death and solving crimes.
Pittsburgh Public Safety officially welcomed the city’s newest badge-carrying members to the team today, including “Zane” the comfort puppy and social media sensation.READ MORE: Pennsylvania Republicans Vote To Rebuke, Not Censure, Senator Pat Toomey Over Impeachment Vote
The Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on the North Shore was the stage for the sweet swearing-in ceremony.
Joining the ranks of the Pittsburgh Public Safety Team, the second oldest canine program in the country, currently with 15 canines, are three new beauties.
“Cappy” the police department’s bloodhound who along with his handler Officer Kevin Merkel, will assist with locating missing persons.
“Including missing children, people with dementia and other medical issues and anyone else who needs to be located,” said Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.
“Dodger” the lovely black Labrador is joining the city’s fire detection unit and was donated by State Farm. “Dodger” with the assistance of detective Mike Burns, performs a very unique and important role.
Hissrich said at the ceremony, “Dodger is the city’s first accelerant detection dog.”
“He works with the fire investigation unit which is made up of investigators with Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire and detectives with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.”READ MORE: Pine-Richland School Board Delays Vote On In-Person Learning Plan As Group Holds Rally Outside Meeting
And then there is another first for the department. “Zane” the golden retriever comfort puppy, is so popular he already has over a million views on social media.
He and Officer Victoria Burch are part of the peer support team. “Zane” whose name means in Hebrew “gift” and “prayed for” fits right At Zone Four where he has helped officers coping with the trauma from responding to the “Tree of Life” tragedy.
“Before the Tree of Life, if you would aave asked me if a dog belongs on a police force in this capacity, I probably would have said no,” said Zone Four Officer Vicky Butch.
“But we brought them in for The Tree of Life for debriefings and it worked. We need to take care of each other and this is just one tool,” Butch told KDKA News.
While today’s badge ceremony for the pups drew an adoring crowd, Mayor Bill Peduto says they play a critical role in public safety.
“They serve with their partner and protect their partner at all times,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.MORE NEWS: Revolution Pipeline Back In Service Nearly 2.5 Years After Explosion In Beaver County
Peduto went on to explain, “There is a bond that has been built between the canine officers and our police officers and firefighters.”