HANFORD — Hundreds gathered in Civic Park Tuesday evening for National Night Out.

The annual nationwide event seeks to promote community-building between civilians and law enforcement, but it may be service animals that were belles of the ball.

“The more events we can do, the better. It’s a huge outreach opportunity,” Kings County Senior Deputy Josh Speer said. “As you can see, all the kids come over and want to be a part of it.”

Speer and fellow member of the mounted patrol unit Deputy Josh Hunt oversaw the evening’s festivities, which featured information booths, free food, music and other events, from atop their equine partners.

The horses are used for regular patrols, as well as being a popular ice breaker when meeting with members of the community, Speer said. The unit also participates in school functions to meet with children.

“We do patrols in some of the outlying communities and we get the chance to talk to kids that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” he said.

The deputies that make up the mounted patrol unit, which was formed about two years ago, own and care for their own horses, though they rely on donation donations from the community to help feed and care for the expensive animals.

“The kids are often surprised to see the horses and so are adults. I meet people who say they’ve never seen a horse before despite living here in Kings County, so it’s pretty cool,” Deputy Josh Hunt said.

In addition to the horses, a small petting zoo erected in Civic Park allowed for children to meet a variety of livestock, rabbits, chickens and even a tortoise. 

Animal lovers could also meet the golden retriever team of Lady, Luke and Diamond, a group of service dogs trained at the Assistance Service Dog Education Center (ASDEC) in Woodlake.

Diamond works with the Kings County District Attorney’s office where the dog supports children that have been abused.

“A child may talk to a dog when they have no trust in adults,” said Tim McFadden with ASDEC.

The support dog may even be present to support children during times when they may be scared or intimidated, like courtroom testimonies.

The other two retrievers are trained to detect when a person’s blood sugar is too high or too low, alerting them to what may be an impending diabetic shock.

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Contact the reporter at pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com.

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