Last year the Atlanta Police Department launched its Police Animal Wellness Support (PAWS) Unit with Scout, its first emotional support dog. Since then it has added three more canines, Rocky, Willa and Cub.

Also, all four dogs have been sponsored by Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, which is paying for them and their related expenses.

Maj. LeAnne Browning, who founded PAWS, rescued Scout, who is part Tennessee Mountain Cur, a breed known for squirrel hunting. Last year, Browning approached then-Police Chief Erika Shields, an avid dog lover, about bringing canines into the precincts. She brought Scout to the police headquarters downtown in January as a test run, and by March, Scout had the full run of the facility.

“She has favorite people; officers and staff come to my office just to see her. She gets lots of treats,” Browning said in a news release.

These emotional support dogs go through special training and must pass a temperament test and thorough evaluation.

“The dogs must be people-oriented,” said Browning. “They are with us to lift spirits, help the officers decompress and serve as a bridge to the community.”

The dogs serve as companions to police officers as well as to crime victims. Scout passed the test with flying colors and the police, with full support of interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant, has since added more dogs to the PAWS program.

According to Browning, because the police’s handlers want to work with the dogs in addition to their current assignments, PAWS was expanded to include more dogs, including Rocky and Willa. Officer Scott Jergler has Rocky, a 2-year-old pit bull that loves children. Jergler, assigned to the Police Athletic League, takes Rocky to the gym in the community where he works.

Investigator Summer Benton, who works in homicide, is handling Willa, who is just a puppy, called a “recruit.” Benton, who investigates major crimes, uses Willa to help relieve the stress of victims and their families.

“It’s a real wellness opportunity for staff and civilians,” Browning said.

Finally, Animal Cruelty Liaison Unit Investigator Joseph Latosky is handling Cub.

Atlanta Fine Homes co-founder and Executive Chair Jenny Pruitt, an Atlanta Police Foundation board member, first heard about the program through that organization. A dog lover herself, Pruitt is also the Atlanta Humane Society board’s vice chair.

“Supporting a successful program like PAWS that works with dogs was a natural fit for us,” she said.

Support Local Journalism

Now, more than ever, residents need trustworthy reporting—but good journalism isn’t free. Please support us by purchasing a digital subscription. Your subscription will allow you unlimited access to important local news stories. Our mission is to keep our community informed and we appreciate your support.


(1) comment

Mike Nelson

Chief Shields was a great chief, compassionate, fair and cared for her city. Unfortunately when the riots and looting went down she suddenly stepped down. Thank you Mayor Bottom for ruining the morale of the dept, so you can try to salvage your career. Now you put in your puppet as a chief, crime is rampant, police are quitting and people are moving out of Atl. Great job. Chief Shields has now been picked up as a police chief that recognizes her skill.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.