Meet Kiah, New York’s First Pittie Cop

From injured and abandoned to having a job and a home, Kiah is a New York success story.

Officer Justin Bruzgul says, “Kiah is not only my partner at work but also my best friend and truly a beloved family member.” Photos by Officer Bruzgul.

Becoming an official member of the police force is an exciting day for new recruits, and New York’s latest addition is no exception — except that she has 4 legs, a flapping tongue and fur.

Kiah, a pit bull–type dog, was found injured and abandoned in a parking lot. Kirby Animal Shelter rescued her and later referred her to a training program at Universal K9 that trains these breeds to work with law enforcement. Thanks in part to the Animal Farm Foundation, which works with Universal K9 to provide training and placement services, police departments don’t have to pay a thing.

Brad Croft, owner of Universal K9, knew Kiah was perfect for the job as soon as she arrived. The eager pooch was one of the most willing dogs Croft had ever seen. She was ideal for the program and had quite a bit to do before she could wear a badge.


Kiah started training at Universal K9 with her handler, Officer Justin Bruzgul.

Croft knew instantly that they would be great partners, saying, “Their personalities were an obvious fit and they quickly bonded to become the perfect law enforcement pair.”

After the training at Universal K9, Kiah headed to Poughkeepsie with Bruzgul for 16 weeks of patrol training. But she still wasn’t done: Kiah also participated in a 6- to 8-week narcotic detection course, and Bruzgul also practices reinforcement training with her regularly.

This video shows Kiah in action:

Kiah is specifically trained in narcotics, article searches and tracking, jobs that Bruzgul says she is a champ at performing.

“When Kiah is conducting an article search,” he says, “she is looking for anything that has human odor, and when she finds something, she will lie down and point her nose to identify the article. For narcotics, she has a passive alert, and when she locates a narcotic, she will sit and point her nose to where the odor is coming from.”

Although Kiah’s drive and confidence make her work easy, she also has something now that she didn’t before: a forever home.

Home Life

Kiah lives with Bruzgul at his home, where she shares her time with him, his girlfriend, and many nieces and nephews. Unsurprisingly, everyone adores her, especially the household’s 4 other dogs.

Says Bruzgul, “Kiah is not only my partner at work but also my best friend and truly a beloved family member.”

Her guilty pleasures include anything similar to a tennis ball or squeaky toy. Bruzgul says Kiah never gets enough of them, but she’s also a fan of tug-of-war. And when she’s not playing and snuggling at home, Kiah is at work — performing her duties and changing misconceptions.

Courageous dogs like Kiah can help stamp out the misconception that all pit bull–type dogs are dangerous.

Representing the Breed

Kiah represents a type of breed appearance that has been highly scrutinized and demonized in the media over the past several decades. It became commonplace for similar-looking dogs to be labeled as dangerous, vicious fighting dogs raised to fight one another for sport and attack people at any given opportunity.

Over time, several challenges to those misconceptions have proved otherwise, such as the pit bull-type dogs Petful has featured in the past for their wonderful work, bravery and companionship. Kiah is no exception, influencing the perspectives of the police force and the public.

Bruzgul and his department see this type of dog every day in their line of work, and this program highlights the potential these dogs have and breaks through the stereotype that plagues them.

Kiah’s breed is not traditionally chosen for law enforcement work, Bruzgul acknowledges, but her presence has brought an important influx of compassion and community to Poughkeepsie. “It’s important to us that the community understands we are dog lovers too, no matter the breed or appearance,” he says. He and Kiah often walk around town to greet the community of Poughkeepsie and break through the stereotypical perception of her breed being “dangerous.”

Kiah was given the 2016 ASPCA Public Service Award recently:

Public Service

The ASPCA held its annual Humane Awards luncheon in New York City on Nov. 17, 2016, an event in which the organization honors exceptional pets and their people. Kiah was honored with the 2016 ASPCA Public Service Award for her service and representation of the breed.

So whether she’s on the beat as a cop or strolling through her home neighborhood, Kiah is living proof of the notion that appearance does not equal potential. We can only hope that more “pittie cops” follow in her paw-steps.

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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