Palmetto, Florida -- An association of retired officers is helping protect current officers' K-9 partners with bulletproof vests.
"We love them we care about them," said Palmetto Police Deputy Chief Scott Tyler.
The three K-9 officers at the Palmetto department are part of their law enforcement family. But, in tight financial times, the department hasn't been able to outfit the dogs with bulletproof vests that cost $1,500 each.
"We just haven't been able to budget to give them that level of protection they deserve," Tyler said.
The Retired Law Enforcement Association of Southwest Florida is doing just that: donating three vests to the department. It provides another level of safety for the dogs, who put their lives on the line hunting down the bad guys.
"They see the dog as a threat or they see the dog is something that can potentially hurt them or find them. So, if there's an officer, there's a dog, they kill them both or they're going to try to kill them both," Tyler said.
The Palmetto Police Department said that the new vests for the dogs provide better protection than what the officers wear. "We have very good ballistic vest, but they don't have the stab protection built into them that these K-9 vests do," Tyler said.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office credits a bulletproof vest for saving the life of K-9 Kilo, in 2010. The 5-year-old German shepherd had been chasing a suspect who fired at the dog three times. Kilo was injured, but the vest stopped another round. Kilo is still on the force and his three other K-9s all have body armor.
Polk County lost two of its K-9s in 2006. Diogi was shot and killed, along with his handler Deputy Matt Williams, while tracking a wanted man through the woods.
At the time, the sheriff's office didn't have vests for the dogs. Now, all 17 patrol K-9s are covered. Here's a tribute video to the two fallen officers:
Bradenton's two new K-9s are next on the list to be outfitted by the nonprofit next month. It's a way police departments and the community are working to protecting all officers, so everyone makes it home at the end of the day.
Doantions to the Retired Law Enforcement Association of Southwest Florida's K-9 vest program can be sent to PO Box 494736 Port Charlotte FL 33949-4736.