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August 30, 2019

ALBANY, NY – The Albany Police Department, along with the Albany Police and Fire Foundation and MVP Health Care, are excited to announce that Maxie and Finn - two dogs donated for the department’s therapy dog program – are now officially certified by Therapy Dogs International.  
Both dogs were evaluated Wednesday evening at Bloomingrove Veterinary Clinic in North Greenbush by International Therapy Dog International Judge Kelly Conn.  
“Maxie and Finn have already begun to have a positive impact on both the Albany community and members of the Albany Police Department,” said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins. “Since their arrival here in Albany, I have personally witnessed the joy and benefits they bring to all those they come in contact with.” 

“I’m excited for their handlers who worked hard to prepare them for this noble certification and look forward to seeing this program’s continued to success,” Hawkins continued. “I’d also like to thank MVP, Bloomingrove Vet and the Albany Police and Fire Foundation for their support.” 

“MVP Health care is so proud to partner with the Albany Police Department on this innovative approach to improving the health and well-being of Albany residents,” said MVP Health Care’s Senior Leader for Enterprise Marketing and Communications, Ted Herman. “Therapy dogs Maxie and Finn will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on children and adults as they navigate through difficult times and their certification is one more significant step towards a building a healthier community.”  

When the department began researching therapy dogs this past April, Bloomingrove Vet called with the news that Jennifer Harmon, owner of a 15-month old black Labrador Retriever, wished to donate the dog to the program. The dog was graciously accepted and named Maxie.  
Maxie is assigned to Police Officer Kyle Haller, a patrol officer who works out of the Center Station. Officer Haller was chosen following an interview and home visit by members of the therapy dog committee. Police Officer Jan Mika was chosen as the secondary handler for Maxie and will deploy Maxie in the event Officer Haller is on vacation, injured or otherwise unable. 
Recognizing the value of therapy dogs, the department decided a second dog would be beneficial to the program. Following the same interview process, Police Officer Joseph Lynch, a police officer with the Neighborhood Engagement Unit, was chosen as the primary handler for a second dog that would soon join the ranks. Police Officer Joseph Acquaviva was chosen as the secondary handler. 
On June 3, Officers Haller and Lynch attended a law enforcement-specific therapy dog training in Broward County, Florida where Officer Lynch met Finn - a black lab mix who is the department’s second therapy dog. Finn was donated to Albany through the Broward County program.  
Upon their return from Florida, Maxie and Finn began training with Kathy Rogers, a trainer at Bloomingrove Vet who donated her time to prepare the dogs for the Therapy Dog International evaluation. Over several weeks, the dogs were trained, and this week they completed the evaluation by an independent judge.  

Both Maxie and Finn will continue to be utilized in a way that is unique to traditional law enforcement functions. The dogs serve as tools for reducing anxiety and stress both within the police department and in the Albany community. They will be present at schools, community events, hospitals, and elsewhere. They will also spend some of their time in the department’s stations to help officers decompress and take a break from the stress of police work. 

The therapy dog program is funded by the Albany Police and Fire Foundation. MVP Health Care donated $10,000 in May, which was instrumental in the program’s implementation.