I do not like to read when a K9 officer is sent in to a deadly situation when other options are available. Those that lose their life to that is most often unnecessary.
In my area, the K9's are more for tracking suspects and search of contraband, which is still dangerous, but they are doing their job and not just sent like a robot to diffuse a bomb. Their handlers are right behind them or beside them. Clear thinking is a given, a must.
Being a LE K-9 is a very dangerous job for the dog and handler. I do not think any handler wants to send their dog into a deadly situation when other options are available. Unfortunately, other options are not always available. Not every PD has a full time SWAT team that is standing by waiting to gear up and go. I've worked my dog on our SWAT team and it is very dangerous. We do everything we can to use every tool and option available to us, including CNT negotiators, gas, robot, more gas, waiting and more waiting, then more gas and the robot. With all that done, there comes a point where you have to enter a building for a homicide suspect, armed nut job or suicidal subject. The dog goes first, he has the super senses and it's his job to locate and tell us where the suspect is. I'm right behind the dog, and the dog definitely keeps operators and Officers safe.
Tracking is one of the most dangerous aspects of my job. I've done many high risk tracks over the years for armed fleeing felons. Often these things happen quickly and your options are very limited. There is not time to call out SWAT, the best thing you can do is grab a squared away Officer to accompany on the track and be my "cover Officer." Set up a good perimeter to contain the suspect until we can track to him. The dog is like a heat seeking guided missile and a well trained dog will take you to the bad guy. Usually, the suspect knows your coming long before you get to him.
I can tell you that being a K-9 handler is the most dangerous job on the Police Dept. I respond to every armed robbery, shooting, armed suspect, violent assault or domestic, vehicle and foot pursuit and any other felony in progress while I am working. I work in a city with about 230,000 residents and covers about 350 sq miles. I also work a dual purpose narcotics K-9 and responding to run cars for dope can be dangerous as well. Dope, guns and gangs all go together. The dog is the tip of the spear and often in very dangerous situations along with it's handler.