Altus Police Department’s K-9 working dogs Caesar and Sami both will receive bulletproof and stab protective vests thanks to a charitable donation from the nonprofit organization Vested Interest in K9s Inc.
Caesar’s vest comes from a donation of $65,825 that was presented to the charity from the Help Officer Hickey Vest K9s online fundraiser. The funds were raised through nationwide donations in an effort to help retired Officer Matt Hickey of Marietta, Ohio keep his K-9 working dog partner, Ajax upon retirement.
Hickey was able to purchase Ajax for $1 and the balance was donated to Vested Interest in K9s Inc. The organization will be giving 62 law enforcement dogs vests thanks to the generous donation.
K-9 Sami’s vest was donated directly from Vested Interest in K9s, a 501c(3) charity in East Taunton, Massachusetts, whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States.
The group was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged K-9 officers. Since its inception, the group has provided more than 1,900 protective vests, in 49 states through private and corporate donations, at a cost of more than $1.7 million. All vests are custom made in the USA by Armor Express in Central Lake, Michigan.
The program is open to dogs actively employed in the U.S. with law enforcement or related agencies who are certified and at least 20 months of age. New K-9 graduates, as well as K-9s with expired vests, are eligible to participate.
The donation to provide one protective vest for a law enforcement K-9 is $1,050. Each vest has a value between $1,795 and $2,234, a five-year warranty and an average weight of 4-5 pounds. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K-9s throughout the United States.
The Altus police use K-9 working dogs to search for suspects on the run, look for lost children or older citizens, and to search vehicles for drugs or explosives.
K-9 Cesar is a five-year-old male and partners with Officer Jerry Downen.
K-9 Sami is an eight-year-old female and partners with Sgt. Don Wood.
Both K-9 law enforcement dogs are German Shepherds and are classified as narcotic detector dogs — detecting explosives, narcotics, controlled dangerous substances, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy.
K-9 officer handlers and dogs have attended state law enforcement training and successfully graduated with Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training or CLEET certifications.
Downen and Wood both agree that the “main purpose, function and mission of the APD K-9 is to support the other officers” and the new bulletproof and stab protective vests will help complete the mission.
For more information, call 508-824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s Inc. provides information, lists events and accepts tax-deductible donations of any denomination at www.vik9s.org or mailed to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, MA 02718.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.