Pittsburgh police dog Rocco will be laid to rest Friday, and soon after the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation plans to announce eight grants for more K-9 officers.
The foundation’s mission is to support the dogs of police and fire departments throughout the U.S. with a particular emphasis on Pittsburgh.
Jessica Duffaut, relationship manager for the foundation, said the foundation realizes that you can never replace a dog, especially a police dog.
“The officers form these bonds that are so important," Duffaut said. "They’re a member of the squad. They go home with a lot of the officers and they are family members.”
That is why the foundation is holding off on the announcement of the grants.
“I think (Roethlisberger) is just trying to let everybody heal… he wants everyone to process the importance of Rocco and really think about what would be the appropriate next step,” Duffaut said.
The death of Rocco really struck a chord with the Steelers' quarterback because, shortly after he started the foundation, a K-9 officer was killed in Roethlisberger’s own hometown of Findlay, Ohio in 2006.
Service dogs can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000, which includes training for the dog and handler. In 2011, the foundation granted $46,000 to police and fire departments in the Pittsburgh area. Since 2006, the foundation has made grants totaling more than $850,000.
Duffaut said the foundation also tries to help with any costs when it comes to K-9 units. It invests in safety vest for dogs, and it equips K-9 unit vehicles so the dog can safely travel. The foundation has also started to invest in devices that help dogs escape from vehicle that get too hot.