Fort Atkinson Police Department recognizes K-9 Veterans Day March 13

LOGO 2019

PRESS RELEASE

DATE:              March 7, 2024

TO:                  Local Media Outlets

FROM:             Adrian Bump, Chief of Police

RE:                   Fort Atkinson Police Department recognizes K-9 Veterans Day


K-9 Veterans Day is celebrated on March 13 and on this day, K-9 breeders and handlers honor the service of their furry companions. K-9s serve vital roles in the military and law enforcement and the Fort Atkinson Police Department is proud to have a K-9 program that serves the community.

The City of Fort Atkinson has had three K-9 officers since 2015. Currently, K-9 Officer Smitty serves the City of Fort Atkinson with Officer Adam Lawrence as his handler. Other K-9 officers in Fort Atkinson were Dino and Bolt.

“Police canines are a valuable tool for communities and I am honored to be partnered with K9 Smitty,” Officer Lawrence said.

The unit was established in 2015 when the Department received a donated police K-9. The unit is fully supported by donations and fundraisers to not use taxpayer dollars towards the program. The Department had funds established from the City’s previous K-9s and in the summer of 2023, a community member donated the remaining funds needed to start the K-9 unit back up.

“To maintain the K-9 fund, to purchase supplies and K-9 needs, we sell Smitty T-shirts, a stuffed plush toy ‘Smitty,’ and many local businesses have donation cans to collect coins,” Lawrence said.

A fund is also maintained through the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation.

Smitty was one and a half years old when he started his service last summer and is a pure-bred Belgian Malinois, imported from Bulgaria. He is trained as a dual purpose K9, which means he is trained in narcotics detection, handler protection, criminal apprehension, tracking and evidence recovery. Smitty enjoys meeting new people at community events.  

Officer Lawrence says Smitty is always happy to be around people and a tennis ball is his favorite toy.

K-9 officers are embedded in homeland security and customs, airports, the Coast Guard, the F.B.I., the police, and even the Secret Service. This holiday also recognizes other service dogs that help people with disabilities and support animals for those with mental health issues. Service dogs often risk their health and lives to accomplish their missions.

K-9 Veterans Day will be celebrated in Fort Atkinson on March 10 at the American Legion Banquet Center, 201 S. Water St., at 1:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend this event. The featured speaker will be Jerry Witt, U.S. Army Sergeant and Scout Dog Handler, who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Together with his scout dog, Jerry led patrols of infantry through jungles ahead of the main troops. One of his dogs made the ultimate sacrifice when he alerted on a booby trap from which he was unable to escape.

All K-9 handlers—active and retired—in attendance will be recognized. Fallen K-9s from the past year and retiring working K-9s will also be honored.

Prior to the event at the American Legion, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the K9 Veterans Memorial in Fort Atkinson’s McCoy Park at 12:30 p.m.

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Lawrence and Smitty