EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State University Department of Police and Public Safety (DPPS) is excited to introduce Benny and Chase, the department’s first therapy canines.
Benny and Chase came to East Lansing from Brevard County, Florida, where they graduated from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paws & Stripes College in September 2022. Sergeant Kim Parviainen and Detective Sydnee Zienta were selected as the dogs’ handlers.
Chase and Benny were shelter dogs prior to being chosen for training. They underwent a 12-week program led by a team of male and female correctional facility inmates in Florida.
“They learned both voice commands and hand signals, were housebroken, and learned basic obedience,” said Parviainen. “They were also socialized in various environments in the community.”
Upon completion of Benny and Chase’s training, Parviainen and Zienta traveled to Florida to attend a week-long academy with the dogs, where they learned about their various purposes.
“My favorite part was seeing Chase become more comfortable with me and truly start to show his personality,” said Zienta. “Both Chase and I were learning to trust one another, and it was amazing to see him trust me enough to pass his certification test by the end of the week.”
Now back in East Lansing, Chase and Benny will serve multiple roles, including attending community engagement events, providing support to survivors or witnesses during interviews, and comforting law enforcement officers during incident debriefs.
“Our department receives a significant number of requests asking for an appearance from one of our canines,” said Parviainen. “Often times, our patrol canines, who are assigned to road patrol, have the primary responsibility of responding to emergencies on campus. It can be difficult to assign them to events. Our therapy canines are afforded some flexibility in their schedules to better accommodate community engagement requests.”
Overall, Zienta and Parviainen are glad this resource is now available to the greater Lansing area. They say they are looking forward to continuing to watch the dogs’ growth.
“Chase and Benny are truly special dogs,” said Zienta. “Chase has already brought so much joy into my life. I am beyond excited to see Chase bond with the Spartan community and bring them that same feeling.”
“Dogs rise above cultures, religious beliefs and political affiliations,” said Parviainen. “Our program will assist our department in connecting with our diverse community and allow for increased opportunities of involvement and interaction on campus.”
To request an appearance from Benny and Chase, you can email Sergeant Parviainen at ParviainenK@police.msu.edu or Detective Zienta at ZientaS@police.msu.edu. You can also follow Benny and Chase on Instagram @dogsofmsupolice.
Dana Whyte, Spokesperson, MSU Department of Police and Public Safety
517-282-3711 | WhyteD@police.msu.edu