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PETA recognizes Wichita Police Department for Fourth of July dog rescue

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, July 10, 2014, at 6:42 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, July 11, 2014, at 11:15 p.m.

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The Wichita Police Department got a pat on the back this week from national animal rights organization PETA in recognition of its work rescuing a dog that was stuck on a Kellogg overpass on the Fourth of July.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, announced Thursday it was bestowing its Compassionate Action Award to the department, which recognizes individuals who have “gone above and beyond” to protect animals, said PETA spokesman Liam Cronin. It awards about 30 of these yearly, Cronin said.

“We just thought the Wichita Police Department was especially heroic in the way they refused to look the other way,” Cronin said. “They did what they needed to do make sure Harley the dog was safe.”

Cronin said the incident was brought to the organization’s attention after members read a Wichita Eagle article about the rescue.

The police department will receive a framed certificate, a letter of appreciation and “an assortment of delicious vegan cookies from PETA,” according to a news release.

“It really speaks to how much people really love animals,” Cronin said. “This one was a no-brainer.”

Six-month-old German shepherd Harley escaped from her home near Kellogg and Maize Road at about 7 p.m. on the Fourth of July. A neighbor was hosting a party and launching fireworks, which spooked Harley into jumping the fence of her backyard, Wichita police Sgt. Jim Merrick said.

Harley ended up on a ledge about 32 feet above Tyler Road on the Kellogg overpass. An officer who was issuing a traffic citation on Kellogg Drive below saw the dog and “went racing up onto Kellogg,” Merrick said.

The officer, along with three others from Patrol West, were able to lift the dog over the safety wall and back onto Kellogg after a bit of persuasion, Merrick said. The ledge was a mere foot-and-a-half wide, he said.

T.J. Nelson was one of the officers who helped get Harley off the ledge. He said he did not think twice about the rescue, saying he “just wanted to get up there fast enough so that the dog didn’t fall.”

“Once he got doggy onto Kellogg, that’s when the dog realized he could try to run,” Merrick said.

Harley pulled out of her collars and took off. After blocking traffic on Kellogg, police officers were able to corral the dog back into custody.

Officer Jesse Velazquez volunteered to take the dog to the animal shelter, but there were no kennels available, he said. So he decided to take Harley to his house.

Velazquez said he raises German shepherds at his house, so caring for Harley was not a difficult task.

“I’ve been doing it for about four years now,” Velazquez said. “I sometimes help people that have them. I just like working with German shepherds.”

Velazquez said he made a post on Craigslist about a dog found near Kellogg and Tyler. The owners had apparently been out looking for the dog overnight, and immediately contacted Velazquez about it on Saturday.

Harley’s owners drove to Velazquez’s house and immediately he could tell she had found her rightful owners, he said.

“She was running around really happy,” Velazquez said.

Merrick said he has been trying to get in touch with Harley’s owners, but they have not yet responded.

Either way, Merrick said he is just glad Harley is back at home, safe and sound.

“In short, man’s best friend needed some friends, and he found them with the Wichita Police Department,” Merrick said.

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or mriedl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @riedlmatt.

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