Communities Lifestyle Pets, Animal Welfare

Meet Officers Hope and Kora, the Asheville Police Department’s Therapy K9s

Officer Hope, left, and Officer Kora. Photo courtesy of Asheville Police

By Emma Castleberry

Some of the dogs at the Asheville Police Department—known as K9 officers—play an important role in victim support. About three years ago, senior police officer Debbie LeCroy started researching the benefits of therapy K9s while she was working at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. What she learned inspired her to purchase a Goldendoodle puppy that she named Kora. After 7 months of on-site training at Highland Canine Training in Harmony, Kora started her career with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. Now three years old, she’s an officer with the APD.

“We utilize Kora in many different situations,” says LeCroy. “We take Kora into the schools for reading programs and use her for community engagement events. Kora is allowed in the courtroom for testimony and the two of us respond to crises and debriefings when officers have worked a traumatic call.”

Officer Kora. Photo courtesy of Asheville Police

Sometimes, Kora and LeCroy do a little “paw-trolling” in downtown Asheville, sometimes with Kora riding in her “paw-trol” car, a stroller donated by Bohemian Baby to keep Kora’s paws safe from hot pavement. “We engage with the community to hopefully make people feel safe in the downtown area,” says LeCroy.

The therapy K9 force grew recently with the addition of Hope, a one-year-old Goldendoodle who was also trained at Highland Canine. Hope’s handler is Tammy Jones, a victim services coordinator for the Asheville Police Department. Together, the pair work in Asheville’s Family Justice Center. “Navigating the criminal court system can be extremely stressful for those coping with the aftermath of a crime,” says Jones. “Hope helps to calm the survivors and to make the process less intimidating. She also helps to develop rapport and trust with survivors and that leads to better engagement over the course of the investigation.”

Hope’s training started when she was just 8 weeks old. She learned not only basic obedience but also specialized techniques for providing comfort and support to crime survivors. “For example, with tactile stimulation, she lays at a person’s feet and rests a paw on them,” says Jones. “It’s her way of saying, ‘I feel your stress and I’m here.’ She’s also trained in pressure therapy, a technique that is proven to have a calming effect.”

The nature of Hope’s work varies day to day. Recently, she supported a 14-year-old sexual assault survivor during her criminal court case. “Throughout the ordeal, she remained by the teen’s side, offering companionship during discussions with prosecutors and providing comfort during courtroom testimony,” says Jones. “Her instinctive empathy and unwavering support undoubtedly made a difference in the teen’s experience.”

Jones says that despite the stressful environments she navigates everyday, Hope is a joyful and happy dog who loves her job. “She adores people and is such a warm, gentle and sweet spirit,” says Jones. “We’re lucky to have her on our team.”

The same is true of Kora. “Kora absolutely loves coming to work and actually does not like leaving in the afternoon,” says LeCroy. “When it is time to go she more or less puts on the brakes and does not want to leave the building. The Asheville Police Department, the City of Asheville and the community have made the two of us feel very welcome. Kora does take care of many, but is loved so much in return. That is what makes this program so successful.”

Learn more about the Asheville Police Department and the K9 unit at

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