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Steeler to replace slain Pittsburgh dog

02/11/2014, 6:28am EST
By By ROBERT ZULLO BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

THE BLADE

PITTSBURGH — A foundation set up by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will purchase a new dog for Pittsburgh police after the loss of Rocco, a German shepherd who died late last month after he was stabbed by a suspect.

The purchase was not unexpected. The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation, started by Mr. Roethlisberger in 2006 to help police departments acquire and train police dogs, said last week that it expected to help Pittsburgh police buy a new dog.

The foundation will purchase the dog for Officer Philip Lerza, Rocco’s handler and partner.

“Rocco can never be replaced, but we only hope to help with the healing process and to provide Officer Lerza with another loyal partner,” Mr. Roethlisberger said in a statement.

The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation was established after a police dog was shot and killed in Mr. Roethlisberger’s hometown of Findlay. It has since funded the purchase of police dogs across the country, predominantly in Pittsburgh, in Ohio, and in cities where the Steelers have played, a news release said.

Jessica Duffaut, who manages the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation at the Giving Back Fund, said details on how much the dog will cost and where it will come from were being arranged.

On average, a dog and its training can cost $8,000 to $12,000, she said.

The foundation is expected to announce nine additional grants to police and fire departments in the Pittsburgh area.

Since 2007, the foundation has made 123 grants nationwide totaling more than $1 million to 117 police and fire departments and several community youth organizations, including Ronald McDonald House Charities and Make-A-Wish.

The canine grants have paid for at least 60 dogs, the training of more than 25 additional dogs and 50 handlers, safety equipment for more than 50 dogs, and training equipment for more than 30 dogs as well as food, vet services, and housing, Ms. Duffaut said.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Robert Zullo is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Robert Zullo at: rzullo@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909, or on Twitter @rczullo.

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