Two Merced County Sheriff’s Department dogs received tailor-made ballistic vests last month as part of a free service offered by a San Mateo-based nonprofit.
“By ourselves, we wouldn’t have been able to afford this equipment,” Sgt. Chuck Hale said. “I don’t like to call them bulletproof vests because nothing is really bulletproof, but they’re extremely valuable to what we do.”
The Sheriff’s Department said each ballistic vest comes with about a $1,400 price tag or more.
“So for the organization to donate them is really special, we’re extremely grateful for what they do to help working dogs,” Hale said.
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The vests were donated by the Police and Working K-9 Foundation, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to helping law enforcement canines.
“We really feel that these dogs protect us and offer us so many services in so many ways, and we want to do whatever we can to help protect them, especially with all the budget cuts the last few years,” said Louise Tully, the foundation’s president.
The Sheriff’s Department in November received additional protective and trauma equipment and training for its K-9 unit at a seminar in Elk Grove hosted by the same organization. The deputies received trauma kits with various emergency medical supplies valued at more than $300 each, according to the organization.
Deputy Delray Shelton said the total value of the training and equipment would have cost the county more than $5,000, making the free donation all the more valuable. Shelton said investment in the K-9 program ultimately saves the county thousands of dollars in time and manpower costs.
Tully said the medical equipment helps deputies administer CPR and treat injuries, including gunshot wounds, narcotics exposure and snake bites, that may be suffered by dogs and deputies in the line of duty.
The organization has trained more than 400 law enforcement officials over the past two years, she said, and that training has saved the lives of dogs injured in the field.
The program depends on public donations, and all of the money goes toward helping the dogs, Tully said. “These dogs do so much for their communities and we want to help care for them,” she said.