Montgomery County Sheriff's K-9 unit gets protective vests

Published: May. 3, 2016 at 4:42 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2016 at 4:42 PM CDT
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY CO., AL (WSFA) - The Montgomery County Sheriff's K-9 unit suited up in their new protective vests for the first time Tuesday. The vests are designed to protect the officer's dogs from gunfire and knives.

Officers Aros, Blade, Doerak, Hoss, Ipo, and Johnny are getting the vests, made possible thanks to a donation from Massachusetts-based non-profit group Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc.

"Just last week, a police dog in Utah was killed by gunfire," explained Capt. George Beaudry. "In fact, in 2016 they've had six line-of-duty deaths with police dogs, so with these vest organizations like Vested Interest, we have an opportunity to hopefully save some of these dogs lives, not just because of the financial impact on the agency but also because of the impact on the handlers and the community that these dogs serve."

Sponsors of the vests for Aros, Blade, Ipo, and Johnny remained anonymous.

Madeline Harmersley of Sorrento, ME sponsored Hoss's vest and had embroidered on it, "In memory of George and Grace Salisbury, Bar Harbor, ME."

Doerak's vest was sponsored by Robin Ballina of Shakopee, MN and came embroidered with the sentiment, "This gift of protection provided by Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. In Memory of K-9 Falco."

"The vests themselves are valued at around $1,500 to $2,000. So it's a pretty expensive piece of equipment when you're looking at trying to fit six of them into your budget," said Beaudry. "Without an organization like Vested Interests, we wouldn't have the opportunity to provide this protection to our dogs."

Since it started in 2009, Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. has provided more than 1,700 vests in 49 states. Each vest weighs around four to five pounds and comes with a 5-year warranty. The protection those vest provide extends to the dog's handler as well.

"If the dog is wearing a vest and gets involved in a conflict with an armed adversary, that dog will last in that fight longer which may give that handler the opportunity to save their own life and the life of their K-9 partner," said Beaudry.

According to one K9 handler with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says having a K-9 partner is very reassuring.

"Most other departments ride around by themselves. When things get bad, it's nice to have a partner," said Tim Heath with the Montgomery County Sheriff Office's K-9 Unit.

Heath knows the value in having a K-9 companion on the streets. A playful partner can quickly become backup with bite.

"When he's bailed out of that car and somebody puts their hand on you? When it gets to the point of him going into it, it's a whole different ball game. It's not play time for them then," Heath said.

Donations to the organization can be made at www.vik9s.org.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.