Explosive Ordnance Detection K-9s were part of the bomb teams that ensured the safety of the public during Super Bowl LIII, but who ensured they were healthy and received proper care in an emergency? That’s where veterinarians Dr. Kevin Winkler, and Dr. Jennifer Pittman, came in. On May 6, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency presented Dr. Winkler and Dr. Pittman with awards to recognize them for the invaluable services they provided for the EOD K-9s during the 10-day operational period of Super Bowl LIII.

In one of the first moves in Super Bowl planning, GEMA/HS made sure to include specialized critical and trauma veterinarians to be on stand-by to take care of these EOD K-9s in the event of an emergency or injury.

“Really, we’re the first,” said Tod Keys, GEMA/HS EOD K-9 Program Manager. “Minneapolis didn’t do it last year and we don’t know anyone who’s done it before this Super Bowl - to have veterinarians on call for bomb dogs.”

Dr. Winkler and Dr. Pittman volunteered their time and services to be on-call 24/7 to respond quickly to these EOD K-9s for any type of injury. Dr. Winkler specializes in veterinary surgery in both soft tissue and orthopedics with much of his training being in emergency and critical care surgical procedures. Dr. Pittman specializes in emergency and critical veterinarian care.

Fortunately, these vets didn’t have to respond to any major injuries, but were able to provide their services to the dogs for minor injuries.

“Even in the minor cases, the importance of easy access to knowledgeable medical care to get them back into the field, that was one of our primary goals in all of this,” says Dr. Jennifer Pittman.

They were a resource for the state so that if there was a problem, these EOD K-9 handler teams had a place they could go, but the relationship with Dr. Winkler isn’t something new. For the last several years, he has worked with GEMA/HS volunteering his expertise teaching K-9 medic/SWAT medic classes to law enforcement agencies around the state. Thanks to this well-established relationship, GEMA/HS was able partner with Dr. Williams to provide the K-9 teams with the best medical care.

“They could reach out to us immediately and ultimately, we could get the K-9s back into action so that it didn’t compromise any of the thousands of hours of planning all of the work they had to do,” said Pittman.

Super Bowl LIII brought more than 1 million visitors to the City of Atlanta and required an extensive amount of planning and coordination among dozens of state, local and federal agencies. The 190 EOD K-9 teams conducted more than 300 sweeps in 19 venues. These teams worked in 24 hour shifts, rotating 12 hours on, 12 hours off.

“They worked and they worked constantly, and to pull one dog out of a spot, it has to be filled by somebody else,” said Dr. Winkler. “The faster we got the team back, the more efficiently they could do their jobs.”

Thanks to the partnership with these veterinarians, Georgia’s EOD K-9 teams were able to perform with the confidence that any medical needs would be met immediately, helping ensure successful Super Bowl LIII security operations.