MARIETTA - Marietta Police Department K-9s will soon be safer thanks to a nationwide campaign to provide protective vests for police dogs.
K-9s Ajax and Diego were recently chosen to receive custom-made Gemini bullet and stab resistant vests at no cost to the department, said Marietta police Capt. Jeff Waite.
The drawbacks to the vests can be that they're heavy and can have an impact on mobility but they offer protection to canines just has as they do to human officers.
"It's peace of mind knowing that our dogs are safer because they do a lot of work and are put in the same dangerous situations that we are," Waite said.
The average cost for a police dog and training is about $13,000.
The vests are being donated by Vested Interest in K9s Inc., a Massachusetts' nonprofit that ran a Groupon campaign to raise money for vests.
Those interesting in contributing to the campaign could donate $10 or more through the Groupon website, explained Vested Interest president Sandy Marcal.
"People were extremely generous. Many donors gave more than just $10," she said.
The campaign had set a goal to raise $95,000 to provide 100 K-9s with ballistic vests, said Marcal.
They reached that goal in just three days after starting on March 13, and by the time the campaign ended March 20 they had raised $155,375, enough to purchase vests for 164 dogs, she said.
The vests, which are being custom made for Diego and Ajax in Michigan, typically cost around $2,000, said Marcel. However, Vested Interest was awarded government contract prices and is able to purchase the vests for $950.
Diego and Ajax were selected through an application process through Vested Interest, which awarded vests on a first come, first served basis, said Marcel.
"We filled out the applications with a description of each dog, and their handlers and included a couple photos. I believe we were applicants 99 and 100," said Waite.
The vests will make Ajax and Diego the only local dogs to be protected by the vests. None of the three law enforcement dogs used by the Washington County Sheriff's Office use vests, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
"It may be something we might explore in the future, but cost is certainly a consideration," he said.
The specially fitted K-9 vests are comparable to the human counterpart in price, he said.
Knowing police dogs were getting injured all over the country is what inspired Marcel to take their vest campaign nationwide, she said.
According to statistics from the Connecticut Police Work Dog Association, 164 police dogs were killed in the line of duty nationwide between 1965 and 2009.
"Anytime they are sent to search for a suspect that is hiding, that has maybe been violent, there's a danger of them being stabbed or shot," said Waite.
In one incident, the K-9s had to drag a suspect out of the wheel well of a semi tractor trailer when that person refused to come out, he said.
Vests for Diego and Ajax should be ready in about 12 weeks, said Marcel.