Neither Kia nor Laser were too happy with their new equipment Monday afternoon. But whether the Great Bend Police Department dogs know it or not, what they got may some day save their lives.
Thanks to the statewide organization The Four-Legged Project, both K-9s now have body armor. Representatives from the group came to Great Bend Monday to present the protective gear.
“This is a great piece of equipment we couldn’t otherwise afford,” said GBPD K-9 handler Adam Hales, otherwise known as Kia’s partner. The dogs put up a bit of a struggle in the GBPD garage as the ballistic vests were fitted, but that will get better with a little training.
The armor costs about $1,000 per dog, said Nikki Woodrow, a sergeant with the Wichita Police Department and one of the founders of The Four-Legged Project. Donations from individuals and businesses across the state allow the non-profit to provide this service.
“Most police departments don’t have the funds for this,” Woodrow said. As it is, buying a dog and paying for the training for the animal and the handler is expensive enough.
Besides, “they are police officers just like the rest of us,” she said.
The project has been around for a year, she said. They had a five-year goal to outfit all law enforcement dogs in Kansas.
However, “it has spread like wildfire,” Woodrow said. There are 51 handlers in the state and the project has already awarded armor to 30 of them.
The suits are free to the departments, she said. All officers have to do is go to the project’s website and apply.
They have funds waiting, but there is no one on their waiting list. They just want to spread the word.
In 2012, Woodrow said the state started tracking the number of police dogs who died in the line of duty along with human officers. The number was startling.
That was the impetus for the effort, Woodrow said.
Now, as they get close to outfitting all the K-9s with armor, Woodrow said the group may expand to other safety equipment.
For more information, visit thefourleggedproject.org.