Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State Police Seek a Few Good Horses Mounted Patrol Team Needs Equine Donations for Crowd Control, Searches

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State Police Seek a Few Good Horses Mounted Patrol Team Needs Equine Donations for Crowd Control, Searches

Article excerpt

There is nothing quite like an 1,800-pound animal to make someone move out of the way, so it's no surprise police want more of them.

State police are seeking the donation of horses for their mounted patrol team. The horses will be used statewide for crowd control, searches and ceremonial events.

"During crowd control, if you're on one of these horses, you can get ground and keep it clear," said Sgt. Doug Carnahan of the county police. "Lots of city people aren't used to being around such a big animal."

Horses have long been considered a vital part of the force by state troopers and local police alike. In 1905, Pennsylvania was the first state to incorporate horses into its law enforcement. Despite technological advances, state police still maintain 25 equestrians, and Allegheny County police have six.

The county horses were used for crowd control during a 1997 Ku Klux Klan rally, the 2009 G-20 Summit, and six Steelers Super Bowl wins.

The chaos of these events is why police have such strict requirements on the horses they will accept. The animals must be calm, physically fit and extremely trainable.

"We spend weeks getting them ready for an event like the G-20," said county Officer Christopher Swanson. "We hit them with pool noodles, fired weapons around them and set off smoke bombs. They have to be able to handle anything."

And the horses must be as friendly as they are fierce. When mounted patrols are on duty, they are frequently approached by pedestrians and children interested in the horses.

"People are more apt to talk to us when we're on the horses," said state police Cpl. Brad Zook. "They see how big they are, or how handsome, or think of their own animals, and they want to come to us.

"It really breaks down the normal barrier that exists, trooper versus the public."

The horses' visibility makes some breeds more suitable for police work than others. …

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