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Who’s a good boy? Willard nonprofit trains then donates police dogs

March 17, 2017
Who’s a good boy? Willard nonprofit trains then donates police dogs

Story by Anna Burleson • Photos and video by Briana Scroggins • Standard-Examiner Staff

WILLARD — Joel Collin has a few bruises.

As a trainer, he works with the dogs of Havoc K9 and teaches them how to take down a suspect.

On the evening of Monday, March 13, a 6-month-old German Shepherd named Dovahkiin snapped and barked as Collin slapped a bamboo stick against the ground, making sharp noises that echoed through the room.

Dovahkiin, who is named after a type of character in the video game Skyrim, lunged forward and bit down hard on the arm shield Collin was wearing.

“They love it, their tails are going,” Havoc K9 Executive Director Ricki Draper said. “If this dog didn’t love this work they would shut down. They wouldn’t do it.”

Husband and wife duo Dustin and Ricki Draper opened Havoc K9 in 2011.

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Ricki Draper said as far as she knows, they’re the only nonprofit in Utah that trains and donates police dogs.

“I wanted to leave my footprint on the world and we married my love of dogs with my husband’s career in law enforcement,” she said.

The dogs train for a year to a year and a half and while not every pup makes it through the program, Havoc K9 has donated 17 police dogs throughout Utah and they’re now working to train six more.

A trained police dog can cost police departments about $8,000, according to the National Police Dog Foundation.

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Bite marks heal on Assistant Training Director Joel Collin's upper arm on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Havoc K9 in Willard. BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner
Bite marks heal on Assistant Training Director Joel Collin’s upper arm on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Havoc K9 in Willard. BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner

“The K-9s themselves are such an amazing asset,” Ricki Draper said. “They take drugs off the street, they apprehend violent suspects and they do so much for a community and that’s not even considering the public relations side of it.”

Ricki Draper said they put about $4,000 into each dog before they either graduate and are given to a police department or decide the working world isn’t for them and are adopted by their foster families.

Havoc recently donated Gracie, a 1-year-old black lab, to the Layton Police Department.

Sgt. Kyle Schroeder said she will be used mostly for scent-detection while he has his own furry partner, an 8-year-old dog named Utah, who does apprehension work as well as scent detection.

Schroeder said police dogs are very beneficial not only in what they’re trained to do but in fostering a dialogue with the community.

“There’s definitely a draw with the dogs and it’s a lot of fun to be able to have a forward conversation with law enforcement,” he said. “The dogs start the conversation and people start asking about other things.”

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Foster trainer Joanne Whitesides holds the leash of six month-old "DeBassi" as Assistant Training Director Joel Collin taps reeds on his shoulder to make noise on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Havoc K9 in Willard. The reeds help desensitize dogs from loud noises. BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner
Foster trainer Joanne Whitesides holds the leash of 6-month-old “DeBassi” as Assistant Training Director Joel Collin taps reeds on his shoulder to make noise on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Havoc K9 in Willard. The reeds help desensitize dogs from loud noises. BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner

Havoc dogs have also gone to other law enforcement agencies in Lehi, Brigham City and Washington County, the Drapers said.

Dustin Draper works in the Protective Services Bureau division of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office. He has seen K-9 units be incredibly useful in the case of a suspicious package or drug case.

“A lot of people think all K-9s do is bite people but they do more scent work,” he said. “My buddy used to have a K-9 and his dog alone had — I couldn’t even tell you how many drug busts.”

Ricki Draper compared the training g to doggy “high school.” They teach the dogs basic obedience, scent detection, bite work and socialization.

“Then we give them to the officers who take them through ‘college’ and they get certified by the sate of Utah,” she said.

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Havoc K9 Executive Director Ricki Draper, of Willard, holds the leash of six month-old "Dovahkiin," named from a type of character in the video game "Skyrim" on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Havoc K9 in Willard. BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner
Havoc K9 Executive Director Ricki Draper, of Willard, holds the leash of 6-month-old “Dovahkiin,” named from a type of character in the video game “Skyrim” on Monday, March 13, 2017, at Havoc K9 in Willard. BRIANA SCROGGINS/Standard-Examiner

Both Drapers said people tend to think aggressive dogs do the best police work, the most important thing a dog can have is drive.

“Drive is the need and the want to do the work and that’s what we look for,” Ricki Draper said. “We look for prey drive, how much they want the ball and how excited they get for it because that’s their primary reward. An officer can’t go around with pockets full of treats.”

Havoc K9 operates thanks to donations from groups like the Pat Moran Family Foundation and sponsorship. They started a breeding program in 2013, have a volunteer staff of about seven people and a board of four people.

Ricki Draper said they are looking for ways to expand, dependent on funding.

“Most officers absolutely adore their partners,” she said. “They become their buddies. They have their backs.”

Contact education reporter Anna Burleson at aburleson@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnagatorB or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/BurlesonReports.