OHIO VALLEY — The K-9 Korps 4-H Club started a community project in March 2015, after finding out that the police canine units that serve Gallia were not protected by bulletproof vests.
With this knowledge, Pennies for Protection was born as the club’s vest outfitting program. The club, as of now, has vested seven canine units throughout the Ohio Valley. To accomplish this, the 4-H club has held several fundraisers, bake sales and asked for the help of the public. One local teenager, Alexis Wothe, has made it possible to purchase the last two vests the club donated to area police. K-9 Korps has recognized Wothe the past two years with the Pennies for Protection Community Service Award. Wothe has also been recognized as a former Miss Gallipolis in Lights.
Canine Gina of the Gallipolis Police Department, with her partner Patrolman Mark Still, are the most recent to be outfitted and received their vest just before Christmas 2018. Gina is a German Shepherd. She and Still were awarded the 2018 Canine Unit of the year by the Ohio NARCO group, a non-profit law enforcement association for Ohio’s law enforcement community.
Canine unit Bonnie of Middleport Police Department received her vest shortly after Christmas. Bonnie is handled by Officer Shannon Smith of Middleport Police Department. Bonnie is a Belgian Malinois.
Other dogs vested by Pennies for Protection include canine Bundi, canine Thunder with the Gallia Sheriff’s Office, canine Kris with the Gallia Sheriff’s Office, canine Griz of the White Hall Police Department and canine Chan of the Gallia Sheriff’s Office.
The vests K-9 Korps 4-H Club has purchased are made in Boston, Mass., by Bullet Blocker. Each vest is custom fit to the dog who will be wearing it. The vests weight two and a half pounds while most vests weigh around six to eight pounds. The vest is designed to be flexible and military grade, made of 14 layers of Kevlar and have what are reported to be the highest protection ratings. The vests meet NIJ and IIIA Standards. They are designed to stop up to a .44 magnum and up to a four inch knife blade or ice pick. The vests are also flame resistant and designed to protect from impact injuries. Normally, a vest of this rating could cost around $1,500 or more.
According to 4-H Advisor Brea Elliot, the group has outfitted area animals to a point where it is considering rotating vests among dogs as the equipment reportedly has a shelf life of roughly three years.
Police canines, like their handlers, risk their live daily to protect those they serve. Many law enforcement agencies have limited budgets and cannot afford to vest their animals. The K-9 Korps said this is and was their opportunity to give back.
For more information, the group can be reached at facebook.com/penniesforprotection. Donations can be made at any Ohio Valley Bank Branch under the account name Pennies for Protection, or by reaching out to members of the K-9 Korps.