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June 19, 2019


June 19, 2019


Established in 1960 by Trooper Richard Abbott and Jocko the police dog, the Michigan State Police Canine Unit is one of the largest and busiest canine units in the country.

At 51 handler-canine teams strong, MSP serves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and responds to approximately 7,000 requests per year. While some police dogs train for a single purpose and others are dual-purpose, all police dogs aim to meet one goal: to serve and protect their handlers.

Michigan State University’s Veterinary Medical Center proudly serves as the number-one choice for the unit’s veterinary medical care and has done so for the last 50 years.

The primary care services at MSU’s veterinary clinic provide routine health care including physical examinations, wellness care for all life stages, vaccinations and treatment of minor injuries or illnesses. If the need exists, the primary care team may refer the patient to one of the more than 20 specialty services in the hospital.

“Our unit runs close to 7,000 calls a year in the state of Michigan, so the dogs are a very, very valuable tool, and MSU is what keeps them working.”

- Trooper Joe Besek, MSPD, Rockford Post

“The hospital’s primary care service is excellent; they are reliable and accommodating, and we are very fortunate to have this long-standing relationship with MSU,” says Dave Yount, sergeant of the MSP Canine Unit. “All of the MSP dogs know the primary care team very well, most of them having been coming here for their entire lives.”

Establishing a regular relationship with animal health care providers is as important as it is for humans. “The longevity of our relationship benefits the handlers and, most importantly, their canine partners because my team and I know the dogs and their handlers very well and they trust us,” says Jane Merrills, assistant professor for the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and clinician for the hospital’s primary care service.

In addition to the MSP Canine Unit, the MSU’s vet hospital also serves the canine units for MSU’s police department, as well as East Lansing and Ingham County — and occasionally units as far away as the Saginaw Tribe, Grosse Pointe, Southfield and Ann Arbor.

“There is such a close bond between the handlers and the police dogs that I don’t think people necessarily realize,” Merrills says. “When they are at public events, they are constantly communicating with one another, knowing that they are there for a reason — to protect people — and the canine teams are amazing at their job. Keeping the police dogs healthy and preventing any medical conditions is one of MSU Veterinary Center’s contributions to the community.”

Adapted from an original story by Katheryn Sullivan for the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Perspectives magazine.

Learn more about the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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