The UT Police Department’s K-9 unit is competing to attract donations in a breakfast-based food drive supporting the campus food pantry UT Outpost.
UT Outpost coordinator Will Ross said there are four containers designated by pictures of UTPD’s K-9s — Beda, Gus, Jarno and Widget — on the first floor lobby of the Student Services Building. According to Ross, students can participate in the food drive and competition by donating a box of cereal to their favorite dog’s container by Feb. 22.
“We’re having the UTPD collaboration to raise more awareness, highlight UTPD’s work and also raise donations,” Ross said. “That’s our goal — to be able to provide for students that struggle with food insecurity.”
In May, The Daily Texan reported 23 percent of students at UT struggle with food insecurity due to financial stress.
Ross said he does not know how many donations the food drive will bring, but said it will ultimately feed more UT students.
“College campuses respond well to these competitions, and UT is no stranger to competition,” Ross said. “Plus, it will be fun to see the friendly rivalry around the dogs.”
Ross said during the competition, UTPD officers will also hold meet and greets with their K-9s on Mondays and Thursdays at noon in the Student Services Building.
UTPD officer Eric Johanson is the K-9 Unit supervisor and handler for K-9 officer Jarno, a six-year-old Belgian Malinois. Johanson said UTPD is collaborating with UT Outpost because the department’s role on campus extends beyond traditional law enforcement.
“Our K-9s are full of personality and have a lot of ‘friends’ throughout the UT community,” Johanson said in an email. “Most likely, those that aren’t familiar with our K-9s probably like dogs, so hopefully we can help draw some attention.”
Civil engineering freshman Summer Wilson said she thinks it’s cute that the K-9s are being used to encourage donations.
“Dogs are good motivation for people to donate,” Wilson said. “A lot of people like dogs.”
For this role in the food drive, Johanson said the winning K-9 will not go unrewarded.
“Jarno’s favorite thing to do is go swimming,” Johanson said. “If he wins the donation contest, he will get an entire day on Lake Travis to practice his doggie paddle.”