Arlington, VA

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has awarded CNA with a new project focused on exploring the impact of station dogs on law enforcement officer well-being. CNA is embarking on a study of police station dogs with K9s For Warriors, a national veteran service organization. K9s For Warriors’ Station Dog program aims to provide high-quality therapy dogs to first responder agencies as added emotional support for those who are repeatedly exposed to traumatic events in the line of duty. The NIJ grant supports data collection from participating police stations to analyze agency member well-being, agency cohesion, staffing retention, and police-community relations. Along with K9s For Warriors, CNA is also partnering with the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine to analyze the implementation of the program and its influence.

“Innovations like K9s For Warriors’ Station Dog program can have a real impact on the high rates of suicide, depression, substance use disorders, work-related burnout, and cardiac arrest among police officers,” said the study’s Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Cait Kanewske, a research analyst in the CNA Center for Justice Research and Innovation. “We look forward to providing actionable next steps to police departments across the nation.” 

Founded in 2011, K9s For Warriors is currently the largest provider of trained service dogs to assist military veterans experiencing PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma. The national nonprofit launched its Station Dog program in 2020 in response to the perceived growing rates of first responder stress, burnout, and suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Animal-assisted interventions are effective at reducing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms suffered by soldiers returning from war, so we are interested to learn whether police officers benefit from the same strategy,” said Dr. Kerri Rodriguez from the University of Arizona. “However, research describing the use and implementation of these station dog programs is lacking, leading to gaps in knowledge regarding efficacy and best practices.”

The CNA Center for Justice Research and Innovation works with law enforcement agencies to identify the characteristics associated with positive safety and wellness outcomes and provides targeted technical assistance to improve officer readiness. To learn more about our research in this area visit:  Officer Safety and Wellness | CNA

About CNA