K9 officers to get bullet proof vests

May 22, 2014
Haywood County Sheriff's Office K9 Lenny, pictured with Deputy Randy Jenkins, will soon receive a bullet proof vest courtesy of Massachusetts nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.

A couple of members of the Waynesville Police Department and the Haywood County Sheriff's Office will now have bullet proof vests thanks to a nationwide grant program.

Valor and Lenny, K9 officers for the departments, go on regular patrol with their handlers, Officer Zack Faulkenberry and Deputy Randy Jenkins, on a daily basis. But unlike their human counterparts, the police dogs don't have armor or weapons to protect them when they go into potentially dangerous situations.

Massachusetts nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s is providing the dogs ballistic vests after the Western Carolina Dog Fanciers Association donated $950 to the cause.

The mission of Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the U.S. Each vest costs $950 and has a five-year warranty.

The nonprofit was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially life saving body armor for their four legged K9 officers. Through private and corporate sponsorships, Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. has provided more than 930 law enforcement dogs in 39 states with protective vests since 2009 at a cost of $880,000.

Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. was named as a charity partner in March in a nationwide Groupon campaign which raised more than $335,000 in 19 days. The nonprofit will be providing more than 350 law enforcement dogs nationwide with the protective body armor in memory of K9 Rocco of The Pittsburg Police Department, who died in January from stab wounds sustained while protecting an officer from an armed suspect. All vests will be embroidered with the sentiment, "In memory of K9 Rocco, Pittsburg Police Department."

New K9 graduates as well as K9s with expired vests are eligible to participate. The program is open to law enforcement dogs who are U.S. employed, certified and at least 19 months old. The organization orders the U.S. made vests exclusively from distributor Regency Police Supply in Hyannis, MA.