U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Exploring the Impact of Station Dog Programs on Agency Wellness and Community Relationships

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $648,166)

Sworn and non-sworn members of law enforcement are documented as having poor health outcomes linked to their profession, including high rates of suicide, depression, substance use disorders, work-related burnout, and cardiac arrest. Among the contributing factors to these outcomes are organizational and critical incident stress. Law enforcement agencies are also experiencing increased attrition as their members also cope with cumulative stress from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as protests to police brutality.

In recent years, to combat this stress and provide comfort and support to agency personnel, several large and small agencies have integrated full-time therapy dogs, termed “station dogs.” The benefits of therapy dogs in improving health and well-being and influencing culture change is well documented in the medical and legal sectors. However, while at least 40 police agencies in the United States have implemented a station dog program, the research describing the use and implementation of these station dog programs in policing is lacking, leading to gaps in knowledge regarding efficacy and best practices.

To fill this gap, CNA, Dr. Rodriguez (University of Arizona) and their partners at K9s for Warriors (K9FW) propose to conduct a mixed methods study assessing the impact of station dog programs on agency member well-being, agency cohesion, staffing retention, and police-community relations. Dr. Eric Piza and Ken Quick who conducted a prior study assessing the impact of station dogs on officers’ perceived organizational support will serve as senior contributors. The proposed study will include a pre-post survey; interviews and focus groups; a process evaluation; and an impact evaluation. To disseminate the study findings across a wide audience of practitioners and researchers, CNA will utilize our JusticeTalks podcast series, CNA InDepth blog, write academic journal articles, as well as present findings at conferences.

The interdisciplinary nature of this mixed methods study will produce findings that are useful to the field. The CNA team will develop numerous actionable findings and recommendations that can improve the field of policing. The findings will directly inform agencies about the promising practices of station dog programs on agency well-being and police-community relations. This information will be useful to agencies with current station dog programs as well as agencies that are considering implementing station dog programs. Given the important and timely nature of this topic, their dissemination plan will translate findings into a variety of products for the field, including both scholarly and practitioner communities. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 28, 2023