Monday, May 23, 2022

Burlington City Police force regroups after K-9 losses

Department has lost four dogs since 2019

Burlington City police officers show off their K-9 partners: officer Charles Haney (left to right) and Kobi, Det. Anna Czajka and Zero, officer Justin Zeuner and Tonto, and Det. Brain Ptaszenski with Rico.

The South Jersey community is raising online funds to rebuild the Burlington City Police Department’s K-9 unit after a year of tragedy. 

Ten-year-old canine Zero passed away last month after a seven-month battle with cancer. 

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“Zero became the ambassador for Burlington City” said his handler, Det. Ania Czajka. “Nobody knew my name, but they knew the dog.” 

Beyond his work on the explosive detection unit, Zero spent time in schools, with Boy and Girl Scout troops and at various events. Czajka recalled the smile he brought to a child abuse victim.  

“He meant a lot to everybody,” she said. 

Zero’s death followed the unexpected losses of K-9 Rico in July and Kobi in March of last year. The department lost Tonto to bone cancer in 2019.

The department is slowly rebuilding its furry patrol. Its newest K-9 Dutch, a German Shepherd Pitbull mix, graduated from the police academy last month and was adopted from the Burlington County Animal Shelter.

Trainers Karli and Raymond Harris, owners of Alpha and Omega Working Dogs in Moorestown, saw an opportunity to help the police force by training its newest K-9s. 

“They’ve had these dogs that serve certain positions within the department … for so long, and then suddenly to lose them all back to back is tragic,” Karli norted. “We’re just trying to see how we can help, support, raise some funding for them, get them back on their feet.” 

The GoFundMe page’s goal is $25,000, which will go toward the dogs’ needs like veterinary care, food and training, and operational needs such as harness, leashes, collars, car alarms and cages. 

“A lot of units would go crazy to have a dog,” said Raymond, who is a former law enforcement officer. However, many departments simply don’t have the funding and costs quickly add up. For example, the proper interior for a K-9 patrol vehicle can cost upwards of $5,000, Raymond said. 

In addition to Dutch, Alpha and Omega Working Dogs said they’re working with the department to provide the city with a police therapy dog to serve within the City of Burlington School District. The district school resource officer would become the handler, Karli said.

Therapy dogs are already present in some local school districts, Karli said: “It’s kind of something that’s just exploding in general, which is amazing to see because dogs have such a capability to be such a benefit to children and adults in general.” 

Within 48 hours of posting, the couple’s fundraising page had over 100 shares on Facebook and over $2,000 of donations, “We just feel honored to be a part of it,” Karli said.  

Neighbors helping their human and furry neighbors.

 

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