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When a gold watch won't do

As dogs go, those in the K-9 service are considered the bravest of the brave. But what happens to these four-legged heroes when it's time to retire?

Dog-lovers everywhere are constantly looking to help. From adopting older pets to choosing those with medical issues, we're all about lending a helping hand.

But what about providing a forever home to dogs who've been trained to serve and protect? We've got the scoop on what happens to police dogs when their service days are over.

How long do police dogs serve?

In general, police dogs are retired after about seven or eight years. The breeds that tend to work as police dogs live about 11 to 14 years on average, depending on the breed, so once they retire, sadly, they may only have a few years left. As such, it could be tricky to adopt them out.

Other adoption complications

Police dogs are highly trained. Regardless of their function in the department (drug sniffers, bomb squad, etc.), they've also been trained to do exactly what human cops do — put their lives on the line to protect and serve. As with any animal, they can be unpredictable to those who aren't trained, as a K-9 officer is, to handle them.

Because of this specialized training, it's unlikely a random family will qualify to adopt a police dog. If you want to adopt a retired police dog, you'll have to do your homework and take the necessary steps to make sure you're a viable candidate.

The good news is most retired police dogs continue to live with their original K-9 handler. Many organizations exist to help handlers continue to care for the brave four-legged officer who protected them in the line of duty, especially since many officers continue with the K-9 unit and must therefore care for two dogs with specialized needs.

How to adopt a retired police dog

While staying with their original handler is obviously ideal, it's not always possible. As such, there is a need for qualified, welcoming homes for these pets. SaveAVet.org is an organization committed to finding forever homes for retired military and law enforcement animals.

If you're worried you don't have the qualifications to handle a retired hero, fear not. There are plenty of dogs who have little to no training that are also available. These may be perfectly wonderful pups who simply failed to perform at the levels required by law enforcement, or they may have minor medical problems that prevent them from serving.

If you do choose to adopt a retired animal, please understand that there may be a rigorous qualification process. You should also know that some of these animals have been retired due to injuries or medical problems, so ongoing care could be expensive and will be the responsibility of the new owner.

While the process can be complicated and lengthy and there may be some expenses associated with it, there are few things more rewarding than providing a loving home where a furry hero can live out the rest of his days in a comfortable, loving environment.

More on pet adoption

The truth about aggressive dog breeds
Why your next dog should be a mutt
Is pet fostering for you?

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