Officer Ben, courtesy MultiCare

MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital has launched a new K9 security program to provide an added level of safety for patients, visitors, and staff, marking the first hospital-based canine program in the Puget Sound and one of only a small percentage found in hospitals across the country.

The launch follows as 90-day pilot program that concluded at the end of April. The pilot helped de-escalate more than 60 incidents and reduce the number of assaults by 33 percent, compared with the same 90-day period in 2018.

At the center of the program is a three-year-old German Shepherd named Officer Ben and his handler, a K9 security officer named Brian Phillips. The two met in January 2019 and, since that time, have undergone extensive training and certification.

Based on the success of the pilot program, MultiCare is looking to add another dog to the canine unit by the end of this fall with patrols at both Auburn Medical Center and Covington Medical Center.