With Help of Police Foundation and MVP Health Care, Albany Police Department Launches Therapy Dog Program

15-Month Old Black Lab Joins the Ranks of the APD


Contact: Michelle Golden

Albany, NY, May 28, 2019 – The Albany Police Department, along with the Albany Police and Fire Foundation and MVP Health Care, today announced the launch of the Albany Police Department’s newest initiative – a therapy dog program.

The program, funded by the Albany Police and Fire Foundation, will consist of two therapy dogs, each assigned to a police officer. It aims to build meaningful relationships and bring positive health benefits to the Albany community and members of the Albany PD.

MVP Health Care generously donated $10,000 to the program, helping to get it off the ground.

In April, as the department was researching therapy dogs, a local vet called to say that Jennifer Harmon, the owner of a 15-month-old black Labrador Retriever, wished to donate her dog to the department for the therapy dog program. The dog was graciously accepted and named Maxie.

“Therapy dogs have many useful applications, and I’m excited to bring this cutting-edge program to the City of Albany,” said Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins. “Not only will therapy dogs have a positive health impact on everyone they meet, but they’ll also break down barriers, allowing officers and community members to interact on a more personal level.”

“I’d like to thank Jennifer Harmon for donating Maxie to this program, as well as MVP Health Care and the Albany Police and Fire Foundation for their generosity and willingness to help support it,” Chief Hawkins added.

“The Albany Police and Fire Foundation is thrilled to support the new therapy dog program,” said foundation founder and Chair Kevin O’Connor. “The foundation prides itself in supporting the Albany community and those in emergency services who work hard every day to protect us.”

“Therapy dogs bring proven health benefits, and this program is sure to have a positive impact – not just to those in the community, but also our police officers,” O’Connor continued. “I commend Chief Eric Hawkins for his leadership in bringing this program to Albany, and look forward to its continued success. I thank MVP and all of our contributors for making this program possible.”

“MVP Health care is so proud to partner with the Albany Police Department on this exciting, new, and innovative approach to improving the health and well-being of Albany residents,” said Christopher Del Vecchio, MVP Health Care’s Chief Operating Officer and President.

“Adding a therapy dog to help children and adults cope with stress, anxiety, and other emotions during times of uncertainty and trauma will ultimately lead to a healthier community and improved outcomes,” Del Vecchio concluded.

Maxie will be assigned to Police Officer Kyle Haller, a patrol officer who works out of Center Station. Officer Haller was chosen following an interview and home visit by members of the therapy dog committee.

Police Officer Jan Mika was chosen as the secondary handler for Maxie, and will deploy Maxie in the event Officer Haller is on vacation, injured or otherwise unavailable.

Police Officer Joseph Lynch, who is with the Neighborhood Engagement Unit, was chosen as the primary handler for a second therapy dog the department intends to acquire in early June. Police Officer Joseph Acquaviva was chosen as the secondary handler for this second dog.

Both primary handlers will be attending a law enforcement-specific therapy dog training the week of June 3rd in Broward County, Florida.

Maxie will attend the training with Officer Haller. Officer Lynch and his canine partner will meet in Florida, and return to Albany together. Upon their return, both dogs will take part in official therapy dog training, after which they will receive their certifications.

These dogs will be utilized in a manner unique to traditional law enforcement. They will help reduce anxiety and stress, both within the police department and in the community at large. They will be ambassadors for the department, appearing at schools, community events, hospitals, and more. They will also spend time in the department’s various stations to help officers decompress and take a break from the many stresses that police work brings.


About MVP Health Care

MVP Health Care is a nationally recognized, not-for-profit health insurer caring for more than 700,000 members in New York and Vermont. Committed to the complete well-being of our members and the communities we serve, MVP makes health insurance more convenient, more supportive, and more personal. For more information, visit www.mvphealthcare.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.