LOCAL NEWS

New Life Flight program will fly police dogs injured in the line of duty

Feb 20, 2024, 5:21 PM | Updated: 6:52 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A new program by Intermountain Health will allow for any police K-9 injured in the line of duty to be flown by Life Flight to receive medical treatment.

The program was inspired after Chad Reyes lost his K-9 partner, Dingo, seven years ago. Reyes said there is not a day he doesn’t think about Dingo.

“Nothing compares to the bond that you have with your working partner,” he said.

Reyes is now Brigham City’s police chief, but back in 2017, he was with Unified Police in Salt Lake County when K9 Dingo was shot and killed by a man police were chasing.

“Losing an animal, a partner like that is like losing a part of yourself,” Reyes said.

A new program started by Intermountain Health will allow for any police K-9 injured in the line of duty to be flown by Life Flight to receive medical treatment. (Istvan Bartos, KSL TV)

Dingo is credited with saving Reyes’ life that night, as well as the lives of other officers on that assignment. It is also why Reyes’ office is full of Dingo’s pictures and awards.

“It is a way for me to honor Dingo’s memory and his sacrifice,” Reyes said.

Reyes has continued to build and support the K-9 program with the Brigham City Police Department. However, he was excited to hear about a new program Intermountain Health is starting.

“It’s huge, and I am astonished at the amount of support it is receiving,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, Intermountain Health announced its Life Flight medical helicopters will now be available to pick up police dogs injured in the line of duty. It is the third program of its kind in the country and will be available to any police dog injured in Utah.

The helicopter will pick up the dog and its handler, if the handler is able, and fly them to get emergency care faster.

“This program will enable an injured working K-9 to receive the same medical care that an injured human first responder would receive,” said Dr. Laura McLain, veterinary medical director for the Life Flight Transfer Program.

Life Flight crews and medical workers at a few hospitals have been training specifically for this program.

“They have veterinarians who are board-certified in surgery or critical care. They have all the fancy equipment that a human hospital might, so CT, MRI, ventilators, banked blood,” McLain said.

A program like this probably would not have made a difference for Dingo, but Reyes knows it will for so many other police dogs in the future.

“They put their life on the line to protect us,” Reyes said. “My sincere thanks to Life Flight for extending this offer.”

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New Life Flight program will fly police dogs injured in the line of duty