How to Adopt Retired Police Dogs

German shepherd dogs are useful  for a wide range of law enforcement work.
german shepherd image by Craig Stevens from

Police dogs perform a variety of services for law enforcement, and several breeds are favored, depending on the task. German shepherds, Belgian malinois, Labrador retrievers, beagles and bloodhounds are employed by law enforcement agencies to do a wide variety of work, from narcotics or bomb and firearms detection to chasing down suspects or searching for lost children. Retired police dogs are not generally available for adoption. Many continue to live with the families of the officers to whom they were assigned. Rarely, with patience and persistence, you may find an opportunity to adopt a police dog. Your chances are better if you look for a dog who started training as a police dog but was released from the program.

Step 1

Beagles have keen noses and are sometimes used for detection work.
Beagle image by Buffy1982 from

Perform in-depth research on the dog breed you have in mind. Dogs strong in the drives needed for excellent protection work, such as German shepherds and Belgian malinois, are not suited for everyone. These are intelligent, high-drive dogs that need plenty of daily exercise. They want a job or a game, and they want you involved. If you want a companion animal who will be happy lying around the house while you watch your favorite reality shows, these are not the dogs for you. If you are looking for a dog to team up with in various types of competitions or working dog trials, a retired police dog may be a great candidate. The hunting drives of beagles, which are utilized for detection work, can mean trouble for other household pets. But a beagle could be a great partner in competitions such as agility or obedience.

Step 2

The Belgian malinois (pronounced mal-en-wah) is a popular dog for police work.
the dog licks lips image by Sergejs Nescereckis from

Decide whether you are truly seeking a retired police dog. Many times, dogs that begin the training are released for a variety of reasons before the training is completed. The dog may be unable to perform a specific task or may have been found to have a physical or medical problem that, while minor, disqualifies him for service. Your chance of adopting a dog released from a training program are far greater than the chance that you will find a true retired police dog to adopt. A handler who has worked with a K9 partner for years will want to keep the dog in the family he loves, rather than put him, at an advanced age, in the home of a stranger.

Step 3

Contact your local law-enforcement agencies and any police K9 training facilities in your region to learn whether any have an adoption policy or program for retired police dogs.

Step 4

Ask the staff at your local shelter about breed-specific dog rescue organizations in the area. Breed-specific dog rescue organizations exist for virtually every breed of dog. is great place to search online for dogs waiting to be adopted. Breed-specific rescues may rarely take in a retired or released police dog. If not, you may still be interested in adopting a dog you find listed on the site. While the dog may not be a retired police dog, he may have all the qualities of a retired police dog of the same breed, including intelligence, willingness to learn, desire to please, obedience skills and agility. You will find dogs of all ages in breed-specific rescue organizations, expanding your choices. If you find a dog you like at a shelter far distant from your home, It may be possible to have the dog relayed to you by a network of volunteer transporters who help dogs and cats reach those who wish to adopt them.

Step 5

Prepare for the exhaustive process of applying to adopt a retired police dog, or any other dog you find at a reputable shelter or rescue. Once you apply to adopt the dog of your choice, you will have to provide both personal and veterinary references. You must allow inspection of your home by a representative of the adoption organization, who also will want to meet all household members. The adoption fee may be substantial. You can expect to be required to have a secure fenced yard. If you are a renter, you will need to show proof of your landlord’s permission for you to have a dog. You will be asked about your lifestyle to ensure it fits the dog’s needs for exercise and mental stimulation. You may have to prove you have the financial ability to care for the dog, including any known or unpredictable medical needs. In the case of dogs who have had training in protection and pursuit skills -- a probability with many police dogs -- you may have to prove you have extensive experience with dogs. If you don’t know a lot about dogs, a retired police dog who has been trained in protection work is not the dog for you.



About the Author

Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.

Photo Credits

  • german shepherd image by Craig Stevens from