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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.
The Dog Blog: How Canines Help Police and Veterans
by Andrea Iglar
As most of you know, in December 2017 we added a new officer to our South Fayette family: Ellie Faye, the bloodhound of the South Fayette Township Police Department.
The dog has been very active so far, having been certified through the National Houndsmen Association and having endured the rigorous training regimen required to become nationally licensed. Over the past year, Ellie and her handler, Sgt. Mike Wesolek, have been called upon for assistance 14 times to help find runaway juveniles, people with special needs, lost persons and wanted suspects. The big, floppy bloodhound also has enjoyed meeting—and happily slobbering upon—many children and adults at community events.
Within the police department, Ellie has often lifted our spirits as well as those of residents and visitors. Dogs in general have been known to have a tremendous positive effect on people; as the adage goes, they are “man’s best friend.” That’s why dogs around the country have been well suited to assist veterans and police officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury—effectively saving the lives of both the veteran and dog.
Pennsylvania in particular has a large per capita population of post-9/11 veterans, and several K-9 programs have assisted veterans and law enforcement officers with the effects of PTSD. The Florida-based charitable organization “K-9s for Warriors,” accredited by the Better Business Bureau, trains service dogs to perform tasks that help quiet the traumatic disabilities faced by some veterans and law enforcement officers. These dogs learn to help with anxiety, depression, isolation and nightmares.
Statistics from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, Harvard University, Purdue University and Indiana University show that on average, veterans consume up to 14 medications a day to treat PTSD or traumatic brain injury, and police officers are at the top of the list for suicides and alcoholism. This makes me stop and think, “Are we doing enough to assist with these disabilities?”
As a police chief who has the upmost respect and gratitude for the men and women who have served our country in the military, I believe the “K-9s for Warriors” program has greatly assisted with these challenges. The program recently conducted a study with 141 participants, half with a service dog and half without. The study found that depression, PTSD symptoms and anxiety levels were significantly lower among the half who were provided with service dogs.
I am pleased that in our community, Ellie can provide comfort to our officers and joy to our community members.
John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
South Fayette Township
Township employees and volunteers essential to public safety
by Andrea Iglar
Public safety is a valuable part of public service, and many professionals in South Fayette Township work diligently to ensure that citizens can safely enjoy their community.
An important piece of our public safety network is the volunteer fire service. South Fayette appreciates that four volunteer fire companies protect our neighborhoods and commercial centers.
All-volunteer crews participate in many hours of training, plus assist with fundraising and administrative duties, often while also working a full-time job. This level of dedication is truly remarkable.
To show our appreciation, the township again is offering firefighters the opportunity to receive tax credits—on both their township real estate tax and their earned income tax. Submission deadline is April 15, 2019. If you are a member of the Fairview, Oak Ridge, South Fayette or Sturgeon fire department, please contact me to determine if you are eligible.
I also ask all citizens to remember the volunteer nature of our fire departments and consider contributing to your local fire company on an annual basis.
Our public safety network extends to various township departments. Recently, two police officers were promoted to the rank of sergeant and two officers celebrated 20 years with South Fayette Township. I applaud Police Chief John Phoennik for prioritizing resident relations, and I encourage families to attend his upcoming “Cup with a Cop” program at YoFresh Yogurt Cafe in South Fayette on Sat. May 11. Children 13 and under will receive a free cup of ice cream!
Our Public Works Department keeps parks safe and usable and participates in the Pennsylvania One Call System to protect people from underground utility lines when they are completing a project that requires digging.
Our engineer technician works to educate residents and homeowner's associations about stormwater management, which helps keep properties safe from flooding, while our volunteer deputy emergency management coordinator aims to inform people on how safety issues such as how to be prepared for severe weather.
Lastly, I would like to highlight the public safety role of our township building and code officials. Our inspectors ensure that all construction—whether it’s a large commercial project or a backyard deck—meets minimum safety requirements. Their daily work strives to protect the public from dangerous conditions.
Remember: Safety first!
John M. Barrett
South Fayette Township Manager
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