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K-9 cops are a priority for Mt. Pleasant veterinarian

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Cami DiBattista | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Veterinarian John O'Laughlin of Grace Veterinary Clinic in Mt. Pleasant (left) examines Voda, a K-9 officer of the Plum Borough Police Department, as Voda's partner/trainer, Plum policeman Lee Temple looks on. Voda is one of the many police dogs that O'Laughlin treats free of charge at his clinic. Photo taken Thursday, March 13, 2014
Cami DiBattista | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Officer George Grippo Jr. and his K-9 partner, Gerro, have utilized Grace Veterinary Clinic in the borough for three years. Grippo said he thinks it's honorable that veterinarian John O'Laughlin, the clinic's proprietor, offers free services to police dogs.

Each year nearly 40 police dogs from departments ranging from Mt. Pleasant to Pittsburgh are taken to Grace Veterinary Clinic in the borough for their annual check-ups and other routine procedures.

Veterinarian John O'Laughlin, the operation's proprietor, has provided his services free-of-charge to police dogs for the last 20 years.

“Police officers and firefighters give so much of themselves, and they never ask for a dime in return,” O'Laughlin said. “This is my way of giving back.”

In his hands, K-9 officers receive a full exam with X-rays annually, along with any medical procedures and medicine for free.

The canines also continue to receive care into their retirement at the local practice.

“I think it's a wonderful thing that he does,” said Officer George Grippo Jr. of the Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Department, whose partner of three years is K-9 officer Gerro.

“He's been very supported of our K-9 program. I trust him with my dog's life,” he said.

Grippo said O'Laughlin gave him a medical kit to keep in his vehicle for Gerro, and that he is on call 24/7 for emergencies.

“It ties you to your community when you give back,” O'Laughlin said. “It's all about respect. It's important to me to do what I can. I'm not the type of guy to be on a board or a committee, but I can give back in this way.”

O'Laughlin said it is his hope that, in caring for the K-9 officers, some of them will go on to help get drugs off the streets of local communities.

In addition to medical treatment, O'Laughlin stresses the importance of preventative healthy habits for dogs.

“K-9 officers are a huge asset to police forces,” O'Laughlin said. “A lot of time, effort and money go into training these dogs, and there is no type of first-aid protocol.”

Modeled after a K-9 class taught at the University of North Carolina, O'Laughlin and several members of the Plum Borough Police Department are planning a series of classes beginning in the fall that will educate handlers about dog safety issues, he said.

“I want everyone to be on the same page as far as the best thing to do for the dog in a trauma situation,” O'Laughlin said. “For example, every officer should know their K-9's blood type.”

O'Laughlin also donates trauma gauze to all the officers he encounters and encourages them to carry it with them, he said.

Plum Borough Officers Lee Temple and Tim Bliss, will instruct the class under O'Laughlin's direction.

“These classes are going to be a really good thing,” Temple said. “Officers will have a better idea about how to maintain the health of their dogs, and what to do in an emergency. Knowledge is valuable.”

O'Laughlin said he would like to see officers acquire zip drives for their computers, or apps for their phones, that contain pertinent information about the dogs in the same manner of members of the U.S. Army.

“We're a reactive culture,” O'Laughlin said. “We have a problem, and we want to fix it. I'd like to see issues being addressed before something happens.”

Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.