Warren County K-9 Dies From Injuries In Training Accident

K-9 Choper

WARREN, Pa. — Warren County’s only K-9 died early Wednesday morning as a result of injuries sustained in a training exercise on Tuesday night

Conewango Township, Pa., Police Chief Jason Peters said that Choper passed away at 12:02 a.m.

“Special thanks to the staff and veterinary at Russell Veterinary Hospital PC that worked tirelessly in their attempts to save Choper,” Peters said in a statement to the Times Observer. “We are all deeply saddened at the loss of K-9 Choper.”

After completing training with his handler, Scott Neiswonger, Choper, originally from Holland, was sworn in as part of the force in May 2015. He quickly got to work — the very next day he served with the Warren County Drug Task Force on a drug bust in Warren.

It was originally Neiswonger’s idea to try to add a police canine to the force and the thought had been with him for quite some time.

“I have always had an interest for police canine,” he said when Choper was sworn in, explaining that the interest goes all the way back to when a police dog came into his elementary school. “(It has) always been fascinating for me.”

Choper was nationally-certified through the North American Police Work Dog Association, a certification not required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Choper’s training took place in Sharpsville, Pa., through Shallow Creek Kennels, which specializes in police service dogs.

“They kind of mold the dog,” Neiswonger said, explaining that the kennel’s dogs come from overseas. “My dog came from Holland. They are trained a specific way over in Holland. (The kennel) flies them over here (and) trains them appropriately to the handler’s request. The dogs are specifically trained to the handler and the department. Choper was trained for me.”

Neiswonger talked to Choper in Dutch.

And while Choper’s focus was drugs during training, he was able to fulfill several other valuable law enforcement functions.

“He is a patrol dog,” Neiswonger said. “Seeking the odor of a narcotic is just one of the things he can do. He can track fleeing suspects. He can find lost or dropped articles from that suspect as well. He can do apprehension. He can do multiple things.

“The dog doesn’t show any bias against anybody,” he said; but, after work, “all he wants to do is play at the end.”

Other departments and officials offered condolences in addition to a flood of messages on social media.

“The City of Warren Police wish to extend our deepest condolences to Officer Neiswonger and the Conewango Township Police Department during this difficult time,” the department posted to Facebook. “Police K-9 Choper was a wonderful asset to our community and will be greatly missed by many.

“Rest Easy, good boy. We’ll take it from here.”

“It’s a sad day for Warren County,” District Attorney Rob Greene added. “Choper was a great addition to the Drug Task Force and will be deeply missed. Our hearts go out to Officer Neiswonger and the Conewango Township Police Department.”

Hundreds of messages were posted on social media.

“Chop was a huge asset to our community with Officer Neiswonger’s guidance and tireless work,” one said while other comments lauded Choper for his “loyal service” and “for protecting and serving our community.”“We are thankful for everything he was able to accomplish for our citizens during his time with us and our hearts go out to his handler, Scott Neiswonger,” Peters added. “Thanks to the Officers from Warren City Police, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Prison staff and the Pennsylvania State Police for their assistance at the scene and after.”

Peters said funeral arrangements would be forthcoming.