Standing proudly at 11 inches tall and weighing in at an impressive 19 pounds, the newest recruit to the UPD team is prepared to proudly serve and protect the Coyote community.  

His name is Griffin, and he’s a seven-month-old corgi specially trained to provide emotional support to students, faculty, staff and community members at USD.  

“UPD strives to maintain a safe and secure learning and working environment for all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to the USD campus,” said Chief of Police Bryant Jackson ’23, Ed.D. “K-9 Griffin will provide another friendly face as UPD works to keep USD as safe as possible, and his support in community engagement and crisis response will be invaluable.” 

Inspired by similar programs at universities nationwide, UPD announced its desire to start a therapy K-9 program during Unite for USD 2024. Through the generous contributions of 79 donors, UPD successfully raised $1,700 in support of Griffin’s training and implementation.  

“The support of donors means the world to us and plays a vital role in our mission to provide comfort, support and safety to our university community,” said Jackson. “With these donations, we can continue to enhance our services and positively impact the lives of those we serve. This kindness and generosity inspires us every day, and we are incredibly thankful for the support of our cause. This program will make a real difference in the lives of many, and we are honored to receive this support.”  

As USD welcomes Griffin to campus, the police department looks forward to leveraging the well-documented benefits of therapy dogs to create a more supportive and stress-reducing environment for students.  

“Being a victim of crime, reporting a crime or seeking support can create anxiety and other stress,” said Jackson. “Introducing a therapy K-9 is one way that we can work together as a campus community to reduce that stress.” 

Therapy K-9s can provide numerous benefits to victims of crime, including comfort and support, anxiety reduction, communication facilitation, rapport enhancement, distraction from stressful situations, a general sense of empowerment and reduction of some of the stresses of retraumatization. 

Following his initial training – including AKC Canine Good Citizen certification and AKC Community Canine certification – Griffin will accompany his handler, Assistant Chief Juston Sangster, in daily duties.  

A police officer holds a corgi puppy while several students excitedly pet it.“We are excited to bring this additional resource to UPD and the USD campus community,” said Sangster. “Our goal with Griffin is to provide a sense of comfort in an individual’s moment of need. When not assisting victims, Griffin will be an active part of the USD community. Griffin and I hope to be able to attend a number of campus events weekly to ensure everyone can meet him and know the resource is available when needed.” 

Beyond his duties with UPD, Griffin will actively engage in community outreach events and various student programming initiatives. The therapy K-9 will also be on standby to help any victims in need of support as they navigate the legal and criminal justice process. 

“Aside from the general presence and student interaction, we are excited for the ways in which Griffin will help victims of crime,” said Jackson. “Therapy K-9s have been shown to aid victims during interviews and courtroom testimony in several ways.”  

When not on duty, Griffin is a family pet and maintains a comfortable life of lounging around and hiking in the woods. He also enjoys ear rubs and playing with his big sister Fern, who is also a corgi.  

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