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Trinity Health adds four dogs to Grand Rapids hospital for security, therapy

The K-9 units will work to provide both a sense of security and comfort for patients and staff at Saint Mary's Hospital.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On your next visit to Trinity Health St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Rapids, you might run into one of their new K-9 units. The health system brought four dogs in for added security after seeing an increase in workplace violence.      

The four dogs are not just there for security, but also as a comfort to both patients and staff.

On a daily basis, Zan and his handler Tim Dault can be seen throughout the hospital.

"It's been a lot of fun," Dault says. "Our day-to-day basis is doing a lot of rounding the hospital making our presence, saying hi to staff and doing patient visits."

Zan is a one-and-a-half year old Belgian Malinois. He's been on the job since April, along with another Belgian Malinois and two Dutch Shepherds.

"He gets a lot of pets, a lot of scratches, and he loves it," Dault says.

These dogs aren't just on the job for fun, but also to add more security. 

"I've just noticed that when I go into a call and I come up on a conflict, people, or whoever it is, tend to argue with you less," Dault says.

Director of Security and Emergency Preparedness David Kiddle says over the last year, there's been about 400 incidents. That ranges in verbal abuse to assault. The dogs and handlers are now there to assist in a tense or violent situation.

"We've seen continuing increase in workplace violence," he says. "[The K-9 units] been involved in about 50 de-escalation situations. And we've determined that about 62 percent of those have been successful because the dog was present."

Kiddle says a K-9 unit assisted in a situation recently involving an upset individual.

"[He] became angry with security and staff, actually turned around and started running towards the three security officers that were escorting him out," he says. "And the dog was standing behind those officers and barked a little bit, the guy was stopped immediately and turned around and left the property."

While they're not trained therapy dogs, they're still putting smiles on people's faces.

"He brings a lot of joy, and makes a lot of people's days," Dault says.

While this is a pilot program, Kiddle says he expects the dogs are here to stay. The program is funded significantly by a grant from the Saint Mary's Foundation. 

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