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The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is enhancing public safety and security by welcoming K9 Skylar to the University Police team.

K9 Skylar, a detection dog, recently joined the campus community. Skylar will be sworn in as a member of the UW Oshkosh Police Department team Monday, Nov. 19.

Skylar, a 2-year-old lab, is trained to sniff out explosives, track individuals and find evidence at crime scenes. Skylar will also serve in a role to help provide a sense of calmness and deescalate stressful situations when people may be struggling.

“The addition of K9 Skyler helps take our emergency management efforts on the UW Oshkosh campus to the next level,” said UW Oshkosh Lt. Trent Martin, who also serves as UW Oshkosh’s emergency manager. “UW Oshkosh is a host to a large number of events, including dignitary visits, athletics games, fine and performing arts events and more, so bringing this resource to our community will enhance the safety at a large number of events.”

The UW Oshkosh canine is not trained or used for drug detection, suspect apprehension or crowd control.

K9 Skylar is paired with and lives alongside University Police Officer Ben Kohlman, who serves as handler. Kohlman has been on the UW Oshkosh police force for three and a half years. For Kohlman, being a police canine handler is a great opportunity personally and professionally.

“I’ve always wanted to be a K9 handler but we didn’t have a program at UWO, so my options were limited. Fast forward to now, with a lot of hard work, we have a highly trained specialty tool in our K9, Skylar, and I am so proud to be a part of bringing this service to UW Oshkosh and the greater community,” Kohlman said. “Her purpose is simple—to increase safety.”

The steady growth of the number of campus events paired with limitations in availability with other comparable service dogs in the region from other agencies prompted the university’s acquisition of the police dog. Skylar will be an asset in sweeps of buildings prior to events and if there ever is a concern once an event is underway. While the public police department does have drug-finding dogs, Skylar is the first working dog of her kind in Oshkosh.

“We have partnered with other agencies to bring this service to campus on a very limited basis when needed in the past. This additional resource right here at UW Oshkosh will not only help increase public safety on campus, but also throughout the region,” Martin said.

To be ready for her debut on the UW Oshkosh campus, K9 Skylar trained in New Mexico at an intense program earlier this fall. Kohlman and Skylar returned to campus as a team at the end of October to formally being their service together with University Police.

“Skylar is really a joy to be around and work with. She listens well, is good at her job and has a great temperament,” Kohlman said. “She likes people and is already fitting in well as a member of the University Police team.”

University funds were not used to obtain or train K9 Skylar. While private donors have helped in the early stages of bringing Skylar to campus, more funds are needed to help sustain the K9 safety efforts at UW Oshkosh.