University veterinarians tend to wounded police dogs

Police dogs come to the University for routine and emergency care.

Tom Moran

When canine partner Rico was shot during duty, he only needed to turn to one place – the University.

St. Paul police officer Robert Edwards and partner Rico were fired upon while chasing a fleeing suspect last Tuesday. A bullet struck Rico in the back of his right paw.

He was taken to the University Veterinary Medical Center for emergency surgery and has since returned for checkups.

His doctor, Brian Rose, said he has been changing the bandages for Rico and has monitored his injury since the incident.

Rico isn’t the first police canine to be treated at the University. The University’s veterinary program has cared for police departments’ animal units for years.

A number of police departments bring their dogs to the University for care, including the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Roseville districts, Jan Williams, communications director for the veterinary center, said.

The dogs go to the University for both routine and emergency care, she said.

The St. Paul Police Department has a contract with the clinic to bring their animals in, police spokesman Tom Walsh said. The police departments chose the University because of its sophisticated technologies, specialization of care, highly trained staff and 24/7 emergency clinic, Williams said.

University veterinarians are trained beyond normal standards because they undergo an additional four years above the standard, Williams said. The University’s Veterinary Medical Center is the only clinic with an emergency staff working at all hours, she said.

The St. Paul police department values providing a training opportunity for veterinary students, Walsh said.

As for Rico, he was kept overnight at the University as a precautionary measure because of his elevated heartbeat and high temperature, Rose said.

“Considering it’s a gunshot wound, he’s very lucky.”

Rico should fully heal from his injury in six-to-eight weeks and return to his job – barring any complications, Rose said.

Rose said he decided to let the wound close naturally but said he might need to artificially close it if problems arise. Gunshot wounds are a fairly frequent occurrence for the clinic, he said.

Rico is now staying at home on cage rest with Officer Edwards, Sgt. Paul Dunham of the St. Paul police canine unit said.

The University has separate clinics for small and large animals.

Local police departments also rely on the University to care for their horses, Williams said. The horses receive routine care as well as treatment for any serious health problems they might acquire, she said.

University horses are housed in the new equine center, which is part of the large animal veterinary clinic.