A bunny dressed in uniform sounds more like something from an animated children's film than a real recruit.
In a recent post on Facebook, the police department of Yuba city, California shared a photo of a bunny in a K9 police harness. Officer Percy is a support dog for everyone and lounges around the police station during the day.
Percy, also known as "Officer Hops," is part of a recent initiative by the department to promote mental health support among their staff. When he's in the office, he serves as a stress outlet. He also acts as a friendly voice when he visits the community.
In a Facebook post, the department said: 'Our Wellness Program promotes the importance to prioritize mental and physical well-being. We provide tools and resources that reduce stress and help create a foundation for positive well-being.
Ashley Carson of the police found Percy in the middle of the road, last October. Carson brought the rabbit to animal services when she realized he had been domesticated. However, he wasn't claimed by anyone, according to the police department.
The bunny, named after the street he was discovered on -- Percy Avenue - was soon adopted by another member of staff.
In recent years, emotional support animals (ESAs) have grown in popularity. Several studies report that they can be beneficial to their owners, including reducing anxiety and depression.
In a study from 2020, petting an animal could boost brain activity in terms of cognitive and emotional functions. A study from 2022 found that 10 minutes spent with a therapy canine reduced pain for emergency room patients.
Colleen DELL, a professor of sociology at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada said via email that "Recognition of mutually beneficial relationships with domesticated animals and companion animals is always evolving." Dell has been researching the relationship between humans and animal for many years.
Dell stated that when his team began researching the impact therapy dogs could have on university students' lives ten years earlier, their potential importance was not fully appreciated. Today, you can find therapy dogs on campuses all over North America. They are also in places you wouldn't have expected to see them, like the emergency room of a hospital.
Dell said that it's also important to consider the feelings of a support animal, since any human-animal relationships can be complex. It's important to pay attention to their body language in order monitor their wellbeing. In the case of Percy purring could signal a happy rabbit, while pushed-back ear likely means the opposite.
Dell says that Percy's new role could help to bring attention to his species as a whole, which is often overlooked.
Dell stated that 'Bunnies in North America are loved for being friendly, cute and cuddly'. This can be a nice balance to the challenges that officers and other staff members may have in their daily jobs.
She added that this was a great way to build rapport with the local community. There is a powerful message to build on, which includes respecting animals.