Campaigning for K9s: From Pups to CopsBY JANET SHAMLIAN
Kristi Schiller says the story stopped her cold.
Watching a news broadcast about a grief-stricken Houston-area deputy who lost his K9 partner during a struggle with a suspect, the reporter mentioned there wasn’t enough money to give the officer a replacement pup. A self-described lover of both dogs and law enforcement, Schiller dug into her own pocket to pay for a new K9 partner for the deputy. That was four years and sixty dogs ago.
Police K9’s do important work, no one disputes that, but many police and sheriff’s departments are cash crunched and have been forced to cut K9s from the budget. The highly trained dogs can cost upwards of $15,000, just for the initial purchase. Schiller saw a need and vowed to fill it. She started K9s4COPS, a non-profit organization that buys and trains the dogs and then gives them away to law enforcement officers. Her first fundraiser was in her backyard. She began knocking on corporate doors all over Texas, asking for donations.
“Kristi Schiller is not a gal you say no to,” says a friend who became a supporter.
Any law enforcement agency can apply and Schiller has enlisted a handful of deputies and police officers who review the applications once a quarter and make recommendations. Those who receive good news travel to Houston to choose and train with their K9 partner before returning home as a team. Schiller’s dogs are now fighting crime in 17 states.
Pasadena, Texas Police Office Mark Brinker received his K9 partner, Austin, in January.
“It would be a whole different show without him,” Brinker says.
Schiller deflects the credit, “It’s amazing what they’ve done with what little I’ve given them.”
Instead, she wants to tell you about her next challenge, giving dogs to schools. The mom of a young daughter, Schiller has launched K9s4KIDS and has given away six so far to promote what she calls a safe learning environment.