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Get to know the horses in the Allegheny County Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit

Get to know the horses in county police's mounted patrol
Get to know the horses in county police's mounted patrol 02:37

SOUTH PARK, Pa. (KDKA) — Like every officer to serve in uniform, the eight horses serving in the Allegheny County Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit all have a story and a little personality.

Bobbie Bertalan, the community relations officer for the Allegheny County police, is also a member of the mounted unit. She says that the biggest personality trait these horses have is that they are all approachable and they help bridge the gap between officers and the community.

"Horses are such a great community relations tool," said Bertalan. "Where you might not want to approach a police officer if they are just standing out on the street in their uniform, it might be a little intimidating. But when you see one of these big, soft, fuzzy, beautiful animals, everybody wants to come up and everybody wants to find out what is their name, how old are they."

The county has had a mounted patrol unit since 1932. The division was founded by officers who served in the U.S. Cavalry in World War I. Back then, the department had 48 mounts, which at the time, was more horses than officers.

What those county officers knew from their time in the Cavalry still holds true some today, and that is officers who are mounted are an effective police tool.

"They can be intimidating at times in large groups," said Sergeant Jason Donaldson. "We train and deploy in formations and use multiple horses together to provide greater impact when we are trying to manage large crowds of people, and they are very useful in that perspective. One horse can do the job of many police officers on foot. They are very nimble. We can get in and out of alleys, sidewalks, parking lots, and the height advantage to the police officer really gives you a new perspective when you are out working in the community."

When they're not working, these horses are housed at the department's stable in South Park. They have a good diet of oats and hay and even a favorite sweet treat. It seems these horses love peppermints and Twizzlers.

And while the unit is funded by the county, it never says no to donations of stable equipment like tacks and bridles. The unit is always interested in new horses being donated to fill out the ranks, which, just like with human officers, will soon be depleted because of retirement.

"All the horses we have, except one, we have received through donations," said Donaldson. "We are always looking for donations. What we are interested in are draft breeds, preferably geldings, 12 years of age and younger, 16 hands and larger."

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