BOZEMAN — Bozeman students may be welcoming a furry friend to campus with the Bozeman Police Department’s new student resource K9 program.
"One of our hopes with this dog is that it’s really going to be a facility dog. Its purpose is really to be a calming influence, a way to greet kids and help kids through sometimes very difficult disclosures," says Bozeman Police Captain Dana McNeil.
He says the dog will be trained in therapeutic practices, as well as firearm and bomb detection—which may be a relief to some after the threats made in the last year.
"School Resource Officers are embedded in our schools. And they work with the district to help kids in all sorts of situations," explains McNeil.
Connor Foley, the SRO who will be handling the dog, is one of five in Bozeman. Nationally recognized training allows them to act as teachers, informal counselors, and law enforcement personnel.
"People may have that perception that it’s going to be a German Shepherd-looking dog, barking at kids, or scaring people, and that’s really not the point of the program at all," says Foley.
"But really, we want to give the community the peace of mind that we’re taking steps to help ensure the safety of the students," says McNeil.
This program is the first of its kind in Montana. Officials hope it will promote safety and community connection.
"I mean, the kids are excited about it. They see the K9 rig outside the school and they’re anxious to see the dog. And I just think it will be huge for building relationships with students, staff, and parents even," Foley says.
The Bozeman Police Foundation is spearheading fundraising to pay for the dog and training.
"We have just been initiating the fundraiser since January and we’re 800 dollars in. We’re looking for a goal of about $10,000," says Bozeman Police Foundation President Brian Foreman.
"We have the best SRO program in the state and they’re really leading the way with these types of ideas," says McNeil.
Those who donate will have the chance to help name the new K9 companion. Visit the Bozeman Police Foundation's website for details on how to donate.
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