Meet Officer Coco. She's a two-year-old pit bull that went from an abandoned shelter dog in Central Texas to a narcotics service K-9 in the Dallas area.

Coco was given to Pflugerville Animal Welfare Services by her owners when she was unable to get along with their other dogs. The Pflugerville Animal Shelter saw potential in Coco and sent her to the Starmark Academy for a three-month training partnership program.

Starmark is a state-approved trade school for dogs, and the program trains select dogs in basic obedience and service work like scent detection and agility for free. Coco was afforded the opportunity to train with the academy, learning scent and obedience work. Upon completing her training, Coco returning to the shelter in November. She was then sent to Universal K9 to become a fully trained police K-9.

“Dogs with these traits are repeatedly returned to shelters after being placed in homes, but these are the same traits that make excellent working dogs," said Rhonda McLendon, Director of the Pflugerville Animal Shelter.

A trained K-9 costs a police agency $15,000-20,000, which most agencies can't afford. However, Universal K9 and the Animal Farm Foundation donate a dog under The Police Grant program. This program allows agencies nation-wide the ability to apply to send an officer to their handler's course. The officer trains with a K-9 for free and they start working together once the program is complete.

Coco was placed with Commerce ISD police and is the first K-9 narcotics dog in their unit. Coco is the second dog placed as a narcotics dog from the Pflugerville Animal Shelter in 2017 and two more are expected to be placed very soon.

“There is value in shelter dogs and these former Pflugerville shelter dogs are making the world a safer place,” said McLendon.