Thanks to the generosity of local donors and a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, Joplin police dogs soon can join their human counterparts in wearing protective vests while on the job.
All five of the local department’s dogs will have their own vests in about two or three months after a Joplin couple donated the money for their purchase via Vested Interest in K-9s Inc., according to Cpl. Brian Henderson, who supervises the canine unit. The couple, who want to remain anonymous, gave money to buy vests for each dog, at a cost of $950 each.
The couple made the donation in memory of Cezar, a Joplin police dog who was killed in 2007 while pursuing a robbery suspect, Henderson said.
Police officials were pleased with the donation, Henderson said, and surprised by it.
“They (the donors) saw a story about the organization (Vested Interest) on the national news and contacted them, and it went from there,” he said. “With budgets tight, the department really benefits from this kind of donation.”
Patrolman Jeremy Bland is the handler for Pax, a 2-year-old German shepherd. He said he’s happy that the dogs will get vests to protect them, because they most often are used in responses in which there can be potential danger.
“The donation of these vests will ease my mind when I’m sending him into those situations,” Bland said.
The vests are custom-fit and made to order, and will protect the dogs from bullet and stab wounds.
Vested Interest in K-9s is an all-volunteer charity based in East Taunton, Mass., with a mission to provide protective vests for police dogs throughout the U.S. The nonprofit was incorporated in 2009 and has provided body armor for 580 police dogs, according to Sandy Marcal, the founder.
“I had been doing this independently since 2000, and then we incorporated to have an opportunity for grants and foundation matches to supply more dogs with vests,” she said.
The group accepts donations and helps raise funds for the vests for specific dogs and to respond to requests from law enforcement.
“We have more than 200 volunteers who work with us, and we do a lot of networking, fundraising and public outreach through social media,” Marcal said. “And we’re always looking for more dogs to help.”
SANDY MARCAL, the founder of Vested Interest in K-9s, said individuals and organizations that want to help or want more information may contact the group through its website, www.vik9s.org, or call 508-824-6978.
Editor's note: Corrections were made on this story at 3:45 p.m. Jan. 9.