Joining K9 First Responders (K9FR) is a multi-step process involving screening, interviews, vetting, evaluations, and training plus a substantial time commitment. We have two general categories of volunteers: dog teams and operations support.
A partial list of qualifications for volunteer dog teams:
- Potential teams should be a current member in good standing with a recognized therapy dog group or similar organization.
- Therapy dog teams must be able to provide documentation for a minimum of 36 hours of therapy dog visitation experience in two different facilities within the past 12 months. Facility environments should be consistent with those encountered during deployments.
- Handler should be at least 25 years old.
- Canine should be at least 2 years old.
- Health statements for both canine and handler.
- No felony convictions or convictions involving moral turpitude.
Canine items above do not apply to Operational Support volunteers.
K9FR trains, operates and deploys in similar fashion as a volunteer fire department or community EMS service except our training and call-outs focus on psychological trauma. Volunteers are required to respond within defined time frames. Our response partners rely upon us to be there when called.
Although we are all volunteers, the professionalism demanded by our mission requires a substantial time commitment. There are four basic time requirements – training meetings, field training, community outreach events, and deployments. K9FR teams volunteer from 40 – 100 hours a year. The amount of time depends upon the activity in their region.
Finally, this work is not for everyone. As Officer Dan Ennenbach, a Kirkwood, Mo., police officer said ““As first responders, part of our job is to run towards a bad or challenging situation to help out, while everyone else runs away. However, the psychological repercussions of what we may experience in those situations can be overwhelming and, in some cases, even life-changing. In a sense, we also can become victims, simply because we’re affected by what’s happened.”