Sgt. John Gray, K-9 Unit supervisor, said the department currently has two ballistic vests for the dogs and several first-aid kits – all of which are outdated. Gray said funding grants the department has received are now drying up.
Project Paws Alive estimates it will take $15,000 to outfit the dogs with ballistic vests, cooling vests and field trauma kits.
According to the organization, ballistic vests cost about $1,400, cooling vests $200 and trauma kits $350.
Project Paws Alive is a 501(c) non-profit organization that provides lifesaving equipment to law enforcement and military K-9s. The organization relies solely on donations.
“These animals are like regular police officers,” Gray said. “They go to work and put their lives on the line. We stress the fact that we would like for them to have as close to the same provisions as any other police officer.”
The K-9 Unit started 13 years ago and has since made great strides in removing drugs and criminals from the streets, Gray said.
The unit, which includes Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, Belgian Malinois and hounds, offers support for 15 counties. The dogs are trained for sniffing out narcotics, explosives and tracking human scents.
The K-9’s value cannot be overlooked because the dog’s trained nose cuts a search time for drugs from hours to minutes, Gray said. However, they’re often in dangerous situations.
Drug houses especially can be dangerous. The dogs are susceptible to cutting their noses or feet or accidentally overdosing while sniffing out a drug.
Gray said the dogs have not suffered any major injuries yet while on duty.
“We’re pretty proud of our record,” he said. “Nothing really serious yet, and we hope it doesn’t happen.”