The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UIPD sees new addition to K9 unit

Bella, a Polish-bred German Shepherd, joins officer Daniel Huggar at the University of Iowa Police Department.
Taj Young
University of Iowa Police Department Officer Daniel Huggar pauses with Bella, a recently trained bomb and narcotics detecting K9, on Tuesday, July 2, 2024, at the Old Capital Museum.

Bella, a Polish-bred German Shepherd, joined UIPD’s K9 unit earlier this year. Her handler, officer Daniel Huggar, and Bella filled the spot left behind by retired K9 Jago. 

Huggar’s first-ever K9 partner in Bella has over a year of training in bomb and narcotics detection.

During his 23 years as an officer, Huggar has been with UIPD for 14. Huggar began as a bike patrol officer and a trainer for other officers.

While at first adverse to the idea of working with a police dog, Officer Huggar is becoming well-adjusted to life with his new partner.

“My experience before this, I kind of had a fear of dogs,” Huggar said. “In my background around Minneapolis PD K9s, it was not something you would want to be around. So I never had a desire until later in my career that I thought this would be cool, different, and enriching.”

Bred and trained in bomb detection in Poland, Bella was later sent to Kansas for more training. 

“So initially, before I had met her she had already gone through the process thus far as bomb searching since she was born,” Haggar said.

Kansas is where she was later picked for Iowa from IronHeart Performance Dogs. The German Shepherd with a thick, black coat then met with Officer Huggar, and they had their own training to bond and learn commands together for five weeks. 

Officer Huggar and Bella have now been together working on cases since April and continue to strengthen that bond and keep Iowa City safe.

K9s are used to secure and keep peace throughout many functions and special events within Iowa City. Hayley Bruce, UIPD’s chief of staff and public information officer, deals with these events, K9s, and officers daily.

“A big piece of what these folks do is help proactively secure the campus,” Bruce said.

Major elements for the K9 unit are prevention and investigating after-the-fact cases. They hope to ensure anything that can go wrong is dealt with before it happens, seeing that peace is maintained, and — if prevention was not possible — everything that did go wrong gets dealt with after the dust is settled.

For example, after a crime is committed and a suspect is apprehended but the weapon was dumped, K9s help locate it.

Huggar and Bella do not shoulder this burden alone. The University of Iowa Police Department has several K9 officers within its unit, including officer Nate Monter and his partner Hogan. 

Monter and Hogan have been together for seven years. Monter, similarly to other K9 duos, ensures a healthy and play-driven lifestyle for his K9. Every day they eat, sleep, and work together to maintain the safety of everyone.

A big part of choosing a K9 is how play-driven they are and how well they listen to commands. K9 officers can even be seen playing in a park with their K9s, after completing their duties, for a nice reward.

The act of playing fetch is payment to the department’s K9s. When seeing them in public doing their duty and later seeing them catch a ball could mean that they did their job well. 

“We get excited when they do good and they do their job,” Monter said. “They feed off that, and they just want to do better.”

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