The University of Nebraska–Lincoln Police Department is bringing a new four-legged public servant into its ranks.
Hershey, a black and white doodle breed, is preparing to graduate from Domesti-Pups and will assume therapy dog duties with university police.
Domesti-Pups is a Lincoln-based organization that specializes in canine training. The organization also prepares service and therapy dogs, which must go through a rigorous process of training and testing before being certified and adopted. The organization partners with the Nebraska Department of Corrections. The dogs receive some of their training from inmates, while also spending time in the community with handlers and trainers before they’re ready for adoption from the agency.
Sara Haake, dispatch director, said she began looking into adding a therapy dog as she learned of their benefits and that other agencies had incorporated them successfully.
“We want to better serve our community and help break down some of the barriers between our office and the campus community we serve,” Haake said. “Our bomb K-9s are very popular on campus, but they are working dogs. Most people are just drawn to them, and Hershey will have a civilian handler and can assist us in the office and on campus.”
Hershey is being added to the department through a fundraiser that is seeking $5,600 for the adoption fees, as well as the items needed for his care, from a bed to bowls and toys.
“The handler will be taking on the responsibility of keeping Hershey in their home, but we are not expecting them to incur those extra costs,” Haake said.
Through her research into therapy dogs, Haake learned other police departments in the Big 10, as well as some Nebraska departments have added therapy dogs. Aside from raising the resiliency of the UNL PD and having Hershey on campus to meet and greet the community, Haake knows there will be a direct benefit to victims also.
“We plan to make Hershey very visible on campus,” Haake said. “But unfortunately, something we do in our office is work with victims for interviews, and someone who has been a victim of an assault or stalking, those are harder conversations. We would have Hershey available during those interviews if the person is comfortable.”
Hershey will have the following responsibilities on campus:
- Everyday interactions with staff, faculty, students and visitors;
- Provide support for all UNL PD members;
- Provide comfort and support for victims of crime during interviews;
- Provide opportunities to bridge communication barriers;
- Provide opportunities to start conversations with parties that otherwise may have avoided personnel in uniform;
- Allow UNLPD members to connect with the larger community in a positive and informal way.
Hershey will likely have a new name when he’s formally adopted, as the highest donor will get to help pick a new name. To learn more about Hershey or to donate, click here.