PLAINFIELD, Ind. — A new initiative by the Plainfield Police Department is focusing on giving shelter dogs a home and a purpose.

The department adopted a pup named Echo from the Hendricks County Animal Control Shelter in January. While Echo has received some training since then, he is now officially attending police K9 academy training.

The idea all came about after animal control received the stray pup. PPD Officer Rob Prichard often helps out at the shelter, and shelter staff asked him if he might be able to help them with the dog.

“It’s been my goal for years to prove shelter dogs can become work dogs,” Prichard said. “They can become K9s.”

Prichard said he has been interested in the idea for a while. He recently attended training to learn how to become a K9 trainer, a trainer for K9 handlers and how to identify what dogs have the potential to become a police K9.

He said Echo seemed to fit the part.

“I’m very proud,” said Hendricks County Animal Control Chief Officer LaDonna Hughes. “Very proud of that and very proud that we acknowledge the dog had something there and reached out to the Plainfield Police Department.”

Prichard said the idea stems back to one basic concept.

“First and foremost, if you’re up there a lot at the shelter and you see these dogs, you want to get them homes,” he said. “If you work up there a lot you see like great dogs that get passed up for whatever reason. I really tears you, and when you see these dogs get homes. It’s such a great high.”

Now Echo has a home, and his new handler has a dream fulfilled.

“I’ve always just had a passion with dogs, and to be a police officer for one,” Echo’s K9 Handler Tyler Peters said. “My main long-term goal as an officer was to become a K9 handler, luckily I’ve become that, three years on with the Plainfield Police Department.”

Peters said he is excited to be a part of this new program.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I mean, getting him out of the shelter, giving him a purpose, an actual life. He’s got a job to do now. He’s got a home to live at, and there’s plenty of shelter dogs looking for the same thing.”

Hughes said she is hopeful the Plainfield Police Department will have a strong relationship for quite some time to come.

“This could be, you know, saving lives,” she said. “I mean, a big part of it is saving lives. So it’s a win-win I think for everybody.”

Prichard said police K9s can cost upwards of $15,000 to $20,000, which can sometimes be cost-prohibitive for some departments. `He said the effort could save the department thousands of dollars.

Prichard said the new program will also have a significant impact on the entire community.

“Our citizens are safer because we have an additional dog out there,” he said. “Our officers are safer because they have an additional dog out there that can, you know, provide back up or any of the services that a police K9 can provide.”

There is a lot of work ahead, but Prichard said he hopes this program will be a big part of his department’s future.

“If you care about these dogs, if you’re willing to put the time in and train them, I think they have so much to offer,” he said.

Monday marked day one of academy training for Echo and Peters. The duo have eight weeks of academy training left. After that, the pair will hit the streets.

When Echo’s training is over, he will be a dual-purpose police K9, which means he will handle drug detection and criminal tracking and apprehension.