RTD’s K-9 unit grows

RTD has added to its K-9 unit to enable more coverage of the agency’s morning and evening commute times.  

Meet Officer Corey Averill and Max. They join current RTD K-9 handler Amy Homyak and her charge, Thor. 

“It's important to have a K-9 unit, because trained K-9s have the ability to quickly search large areas for explosives, creating a safe environment for everyone,” Averill said. “They can also be a deterrent to anyone who is planning something.”

RTD’s security division received a Federal Emergency Management Agency Transit Security Grant from the Department of Homeland Security for this additional K-9 service so that they could increase capabilities and hours of use.  

“They (Averill and Max) will double our capacity for response to suspicious bags, items or circumstances,” said RTD Transit Police Chief Bob Grado. “Having a K-9 allows us to quickly restore service and also screen passengers and packages.”

The grant lasts three years and is renewable.  

“It is a full-funding grant that pays for the dog, the officer, the K-9 vehicle and everything that goes along with it,” Grado said. 

Averill will serve as a patrol officer when not responding to K-9 calls. He comes to RTD with ample experience. 

“I started my career as a military police officer in the army, from 2009 to 2013,” Averill said. “In 2015, I became a police officer at the Auraria Campus police department. I was selected to be their first K-9 handler in 2016.”

Max is an almost-2-year-old black Labrador mix from Mexico. He was certified as an explosives detection animal by the National Police Canine Association, and is the third dog Averill has certified. 

Max went through six weeks of training, which included imprinting him on all of the explosive odors, teaching him how to indicate when he smells explosives and exposing him to different types of environments. 

Max was successfully certified because he was able to find all explosives hidden within five vehicles, four rooms, 15 boxes and an outside open area. 

Next year, Grado plans to request another dog to cover weekends, holidays, vacation and special events. 

“(K-9s) are a great tool to add another layer of protection for riders,” Grado said. “They can quickly help clear suspicious packages or help the agency decide whether further investigation is needed. They are helpful in searching areas when random bomb threats are made.”

K-9s are also important because they are a great way to connect with the community.

Averill says Max doesn’t seem to like the snow yet. Makes sense since he’s from warmer climes. When Max isn’t keeping RTD passengers and properties safe, he enjoys napping in the sunlight and playing with Averill’s other dogs. Max’s favorite toy is a Kong and he’s extremely playful and goofy. 
But even though Max likes his time off, he gets super excited once he realizes that he and Averill are going to work.