Indiana police departments exploring GPS options for K-9 officers

INDIANAPOLIS -- State police are making an urgent push to get better protection for their K-9 officers - including GPS tracking devices - after a K-9 went missing after being shot earlier this week. 

It was a massive search to find a state police K-9 Apache after he was injured while protecting his handler, Trooper Walter Butts, during a shootout with a suspect

“There is no doubt in my mind that that dog saved Trooper Butt’s life that night,” said Sgt. Dennis Wade, Indiana State Police's K-9 coordinator. 

State police struggled for nearly 12 hours to find K-9 Apache, who was eventually spotted by an alert citizen and reunited with Trooper Butts. 

RELATED | ISP K-9, suspect injured during shootout between trooper and suspect

 Sgt. Wade said it was an extremely rare situation and something they can't prepare for in training. 

“An injury like that, you can’t recreate in training,” said Sgt. Wade. “Any animal being hurt is going to try to seek relief and that animal being hurt – he couldn’t figure out where the pain was coming from.”

Sgt. Wade says state police have never had a dog run away in their 13 years of having a K-9 program.

Although it’s uncommon for K-9 officers to retreat, it's not unheard of when they're injured. In August of last year, a K-9 in Arkansas was shot in the line of duty and went missing for two days. The department there chose to outfit GPS collars on their K-9 officers in case it ever happened again.

Call 6 Investigates contacted multiple police departments in the state of Indiana, and while many track their vehicles, phones and laptops with GPS – none of them have trackers on their K-9 officers.

That's something Sgt. Wade says they hope to change in the future. 

State police aren't the only agency considering tracking their K-9s, Lawrence police - who helped search for Apache after the shooting - say they’re also considering devices for their K-9 officers.

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