VA Palo Alto Introduces K9 Program for Safer Campuses | VA Palo Alto Healthcare

VA Palo Alto seeks unique talents when it comes to its police department. The range of talent within the team can rival the best police departments in the country, but their newest recruit, Atlas, brings a whole new level of skill.

Not only is he fully trained to find lost patients and help with any drug-related cases, but he can do anything with his nose. Indeed, Atlas is a European Labrador Retriever who was recently acquired to join the VA Palo Alto Police Department.

“The addition of our VA Police K9 team and the unique skills they offer further exemplifies our unwavering commitment to providing the safest and most secure environment for our veterans, visitors and colleagues,” said the Chief of VA Palo Alto police and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Martin Sizemore.

When Sizemore joined VA Palo Alto, one of his first moves was to implement a K9 program. With the support of senior management, Chief Sizemore’s team was able to secure a contract with a western Pennsylvania kennel that was looking for the perfect dog.

The kennel sources all of its dogs from Europe, so as soon as the contract was set up, the kennel owner flew to the Netherlands to find a sporting breed that fit the VA’s criteria for police dogs. .

Detective Lieutenant and Air Force veteran Christian Mattei is the K9 handler for Atlas. He has over 11 years of service with the VA Palo Alto Police, and after working his way up to the rank of lieutenant with a solid track record, he was the obvious choice to become the first K9 handler in the system. health. He also grew up training hunting dogs, but admitted there was a big difference with police dogs.

“He’s a working dog, so I have a responsibility to make sure he’s trained, well fed and can work when the time comes. It’s so different than just having a pet or a service dog,” said Mattei, who also hosts Atlas in his home outside of working hours.

Atlas’ primary purpose for his unit is to serve as a tracker. It can detect drugs in addition to being able to track humans if necessary. Although drugs are not a frequent problem, it is based on the VA Menlo Park campus. The campus is home to several nursing facilities dedicated to elderly patients, some with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The value of having an officer like Atlas is high when dealing with these populations.

Atlas even adds value to VA Palo Alto’s strong relationships with community law enforcement and can be an asset for cases like missing persons. However, tracking skills aside, some dogs can make police officers more approachable. When you look at Atlas’ puppy face, that statement is unmistakable!

Learn more about the police department on the VA Palo Alto website

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