RIO GRANDE — One of the area’s four legged officers was recently outfitted with a bullet proof vest thanks to the efforts of a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization.
According Sgt. Josh Davies of the Village of Rio Grande Police Department, his K9 partner Smilla recently received a bullet- and stab-protective vest through Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., an all volunteer, non-profit charity located in East Taunton, Mass.
The made-to-order vest will protect Smilla from bullet and stab wounds, as well as blunt force trauma, and, according to Davies, a protective vest is a must-have for any K9 officer as they often make first contact with fleeing suspects.
“I want make sure she is safe while she is out on the road, apprehending suspects, and I’d like to thank everybody who donated through the program,” Davies said.
Smilla, who was purchased for the Rio Grande Police Department through community donations, was partnered with her handler Davies and began working in June 2012. Just over two years old, Smilla is a German Shepherd from Germany who was trained, along with Davies, at Pine Grove Kennels in Tuppers Plains, Ohio. She is certified through the State of Ohio and also through the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers and is a dual-purpose canine trained in narcotic detection, article searches, building searches, area searches, tracking, handler protection and criminal apprehension.
Smilla was named as a recipient of one of the made-to-order vests in May following a Groupon Event on behalf of Vested Interest in K9s.
The non-profit was selected to participate in the event that ran from March 13-20. The online $10 donation suggested interested persons purchase a Groupon (a tax deductible donation) through the secure website where all the funds were allocated to purchase ballistic vests for four-legged crime fighters who put their lives on the line for the community and their partner.
The eight-day campaign raised over $155,000, which allowed Vested Interest to outfit over 163 police K9s in 30 states with protective vests, including Rio Grande’s K9 Smilla.
The vests purchased through the non-profit organization cost $950 each and have a five-year warranty.
Vested Interest was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially life-saving body armor for their four legged K9 officers. Through private and corporate sponsorships, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., has provided over 435 law enforcement dogs with protective vests since their inception in August of 2009. Over $400,000 in K9 vests have been donated in 35 states including Alaska and Hawaii.
The organization orders the Armor Express vests made in Central Lakes, Mich., exclusively from distributor Regency Police Supply in Hyannis, Mass. who also does the custom embroidery on the body armor.
New K9 graduates, as well as K9s with expired vests, are eligible to apply for the ballistic vests.
For more information about Vested Interest in K9s, visit www.vik9s.org or call 508-824-6978.
Davies also reported that a K9 fund has been established through the Village of Rio Grande Police Department and they are always appreciative of donations to help secure the most up-to-date equipment for the use of the K9 unit.
For more information on the Rio Grande Police Department’s K9 program, or to learn how to contribute to the K9 fund, call the police department at (740) 245-9093.