The Springfield Police Division’s two K-9 officers are now safer when performing their duties, thanks to a donation from a national organization that has provided protective vests.
The four-legged officers, Spike and Gery, have been on the force since 2013 and 2014, respectively.
One thing people noticed, said Gery’s handler, Officer Deric Nichols, was that the dogs did not have any type of ballistic vests.
“It’s the first thing people ask about when they know you have a dog; they want to know if it’s protected,” he said.
Neither dogs have ever been shot at, Nichols said, but getting vests for the pair was important.
Springfield police applied to receive the vests after a national Groupon fund-raiser collected more than $335,000 earlier this year for the non-profit organization Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. The organization selected Springfield’s dogs as two of more than 350 law enforcement canines across the country that received a vest, said Lt. Tom Zawada.
The vests the organization provides are bullet proof and stab proof, and cover the dog from neck to tail. They would have cost the city nearly $1,000 each.
The safety of the dogs is just as important as keeping any other officer guarded on the streets, said Spike’s handler, Officer Kevin Hoying.
“(Spike’s) part of the department, he’s part of me, he’s my partner, my family — so we treat him the same way, and it’s great that he is now protected just like we are,” he said.
The work the dogs are able to do is invaluable for the police work done each day in the city, Nichols said.
“There’s so many things that they can do that humans can’t do, and even the things humans can do they can do it better,” he said.
K-9 officers do a lot of drug work, Hoying said, which can put them in positions and places where weapons are likely.
“When you’re dealing with a drug dealer it’s usually an experience where there’s drugs, there’s a gun,” he said.
Now that Gery and Spike have their new equipment, it will take some time to learn to work in it, Hoying said, because the vests weight about 20 pounds.
Because of their weight and the summer heat, the dogs do not wear the vests at all times. But they can be put on when quickly they are needed.
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