Axel is the hospital’s first K-9 recruit and spent two months training with Mike Smith.

Image courtesy of Providence St. Mary Medical Center

Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Wash., has added a new recruit to its security team: a 16-month-old Belgium Malinois/German Shepherd mix named Axel.

The recently adopted K-9 brought all the way from the Czech Republic is part of the hospital’s strategy to deal with increased workplace violence, a trend that is occurring nationally. 

Axel completed 400 hours of training at the Alabama Canine Law Enforcement Officers Training Center in Tuscaloosa and earned dual certification in patrol work and narcotics detection. He lives and is partnered with the hospital’s Security K-9 Program Coordinator Mike Smith, who spent two months training with Axel. Officer Smith has a background in law enforcement, canine handling, and is a certified crisis intervention negotiator and licensed private investigator.

Susan Leathers, safety, security and emergency preparedness manager at the hospital, says that a K-9’s abilities to perform multiple functions such as exterior and interior patrolling and odor detection, as well as the average working life of eight to 10 years, makes them a cost-effective long-term investment. What’s more, Leathers says the simple presence of a K-9 helps to mitigate security risks.

“The presence of K-9s can instantly de-escalate risk for violence incidents,” she says. “As the program moves forward, its successes over this next year will determine adding an additional K-9 to the team for seven-days-a-week coverage,” Leathers says.