Retired police K9 abandoned at shelter by handler, prompting outrage and investigation

K9 police dogs are true heroes and an invaluable part of any police department. They can be counted on for so many crucial tasks, like tracking down missing people.

These dogs deserve the respect we give to human officers, and at the very least they deserve a loving home after they retire from the force.

But sadly, it was not a happy retirement for one former K9, who was reportedly surrendered to the shelter by his handler.

Kona, a Dutch Shepherd, joined the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit in 2021. She faithfully served on the force until she retired at the end of last year.

As is tradition, K9 Kona was adopted by her handler, Deputy Tolson, after retirement — but on April 29 the department was shocked to learn that Kona had been left at Liberty County Animal Shelter.

Liberty County Sheriff Bowman said he had no prior knowledge of the dog’s situation and they learned about it in part through social media. “Sheriff Bowman would not agree to, and had no prior knowledge of, the retired canine being treated in this manner,” a news release from the sheriff’s office says.

“The well-being and proper care of all canines, both active and retired, is of the utmost importance to the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, and any allegations of mistreatment or neglect are taken very seriously.”

Sheriff Bowman has ordered an internal investigation into the incident. While the investigation is ongoing, Deputy Tolson has been reassigned to a patrol position, and his current K9 partner has been reassigned to another handler.

The department says that they offer handlers to adopt retiring K9s, but they have to sign an agreement making them “liable for all care, maintenance, vet visits, and medical treatment of the canine.”

The situation has elicited strong feelings from local citizens, who were upset that a retired police dog would be treated in such a way.

“The Deputy needs to be arrested for animal cruelty, and no other animals should be in his possession including his current K-9,” one comment reads.

“The handler should be terminated for breaking his promise to care for Kona during his retirement,” another wrote. “I am so glad to know that Kona was rescued and is now in a loving home again.”

Police dogs deserve a happy retirement in a loving home — they shouldn’t be dropped off at a shelter like this 😢💔 We’re glad Kona has a new home and hope the investigation gets to the bottom of this sad incident.

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