From Local 3 News: In September 2020, Bradley County Sheriff’s K-9 Deputy Joker was shot in the line of duty.
It took months for him to recover. He had several surgeries to his face and neck. This month, it forced him into an early retirement.
Now, a Whitwell, Tennessee-based non-profit organization is stepping up, and is paying for all of his medical expenses for the rest of his life.
Project K-9 Hero helps more than 230 retired police animals across the country.
“I noticed no one was there to help them in retirement,” said Jason Johnson, founder & CEO of the organization. “Either that handler’s going to have to go into extreme personal debt, or the dog would go without.”
Most police agencies, especially the smaller ones, simply can’t afford to financially support police animals once they retire, so the handlers turn to organizations like Project K-9 hero so they don’t have to worry about a single penny.
Expected and unexpected medical and food expenses will be covered by the organization for Joker for the rest of his life. It’s a thank you for his seven years of dedicated service.
“Joker has a special need because when he got shot in the head and face area, that was recovered,” said Johnson. “But it stemmed into damage down his back, which led him to early retirement. We have no idea what that’s going to be like for the rest of his life.”
The non-profit organization received more than 600 applications for funding for retired K-9 officers nationwide and Joker’s was accepted.
Johnson estimates Joker’s medical bills could end up adding up to at least $20,000.
“In Joker’s case, it could be more because he’s retiring a little earlier,” said Johnson. “A lot of dogs won’t retire until they’re ten or 11.”
Johnson started the non-profit after almost 30 years of military and law enforcement experience training K-9’s. After his K-9, Flash, retired, he wanted to help other police dogs, too.
“After all Joker’s been through, I didn’t feel there was a need for him to wait on the list for him to get help from our organization,” said Johnson. “I wanted to make sure that he was being taken care of right away.”
Joker will have a retirement ceremony from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 21 at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.