GARDEN CITY, GA (WTOC) - In Chatham County, a new vest is now protecting a K9 with the Garden City Police Department, and it's all thanks to a non-profit organization.
This donation may seem small, but it's a big deal for the department. Not only is it one less expense for the department's budget, but it could also save a K9 or a human officer's life.
Arie, a 100-pound German shepherd, has a new bullet- and stab-resistant vest. It only weighs about three pounds, but it's made of the same material as the vest that protects his partner.
"So it's only fair that he has the same kind of equipment to keep himself protected, so he has a better chance of protecting us," said Officer David Dess, Garden City Police Department.
And it's warranted. Many times, K9's are in harm's way before their human counterparts.
"Sometimes we'll send them into a building to find somebody and they're in there by themselves, and then we're coming in behind them a couple seconds later. So those couple seconds could mean the difference between life or death if there's an armed suspect in the building," said Officer Dess.
The vest was donated to the department by a Massachusetts-based non-profit called, Vested Interest in K9's. It provides these thousand-dollar vests to departments around the country that may not have room in the budget for them.
"This is an asset that we didn't have to pay for, the taxpayers didn't have to pay for, and it will protect our about $12,000 dollar K9 asset," said Garden City Police Chief David Lyons.
And Officer Dess believes the use of K9 units is only increasing. In Savannah, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police have recorded more than 1,500 K9 calls each year since 2012.
The founder of Vested Interest in K9's has seen the trend, too, as demand for vests has increased over the years.
"We incorporated in 2009, and I'd have to say that it's probably doubled or tripled. More departments are putting on more K9 units because dogs have the ability to do things that their human partners can't do," said Vested Interest in K9's Founder/President Sandy Marcal.
The Garden City Police Department recently retired one of its other K9's. That dog's replacement is set to be done with training in about six months and the department plans to apply for a vest for him as well.
Any police department can apply to request a vest for a K9. The dogs have to meet certain requirements and the vests are donated as funds become available.
For more information, please visit the Vested Interest in K9's website.