WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Meet Leo: he’s the Winchester Police Department’s first-ever therapy canine and his job is to comfort and relax people. Leo will be used to help make breakthroughs with people dealing with trauma and anxiety-filled situations.
“He will be dual purpose he will work alongside me with victim interviews and whether it’s a child or an adult victim and then he will also be used on our peer to peer team to help officers after a traumatic call as kind of a buffer and something that will, you know, calm them,” said Winchester Police Department Special Victims Detective Mala Bansal.
Bansal, Leo’s handler, says she got the idea to get a therapy canine for the department after a particularly tough day on the job.
“It stemmed from a really difficult call that I had and I realized that I was missing something we had a victim and the sibling and I couldn’t comfort the sibling I couldn’t explain or convey to her you know what was happening and I came back and raff one of our other canines came in and I was like that’s what we need,” she said.
Leo is currently 9 weeks old, and when he turns 5 months old he will go to Creature Comfort Inn in Strasburg for training.
“He’s got just an endearing personality he loves to interact with people he loves kids already,” Bansal said.
The department was able to get Leo after receiving a donation from the Frederick County/Winchester Law Enforcement Foundation. He was purchased from a local breeder called Blackjax Labradors. Deputy Chief Amanda Behan helped create a proposal to buy the therapy canine and gained support from Chief John Piper and City Manager Dan Hoffman.