BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
SYRACUSE — Kade and Drake will soon join the ranks of police dogs outfitted with ballistic vests, thanks to a national non-profit organization and Groupon, which teamed up to provide the bullet and stab-proof vests to 163 law enforcement dogs nationwide.
Kade and Drake are K-9 members of the Syracuse Police Force who take risks fighting crime just like their handlers. Unlike their handlers though, fewer police dogs are protected with the vests because their cost ($950 per vest) often prohibits police departments on tight budgets from ordering them.
“It’s sometimes difficult to justify the expense when it’s a used-as-needed tool,” said Syracuse Police Chief Garret Atkin. He explained the vests are not something the dogs will wear all the time. “They’re hot and bulky,” he said.
But if officers find themselves in a situation where they are dealing with an armed individual, it helps to keep the K-9 officers as safe as their human counterparts.
“We really appreciate the organization selecting us,” Atkin said.
Vested Interest in K9s, based in East Taunton, Mass., raised more than $155,000 in eight days through a nationwide Groupon Grassroots Event in March, according to Sandy Marcal, president of Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc.
The Groupon plan asked for a $10 online donation. At this time, it is not known where the donors live. That information may be available at a later date, Marcal said.
The nonprofit exceeded its goal of raising $95,000 towards the purchase of 100 vests in just three days, an company press release said. Vested Interest in K9s Inc., will donate the proceeds to 163 law enforcement agencies in 30 states.
Police departments nationwide applied for the funds. They were awarded on a first-come first-served basis, Marcal said. The Syracuse and Grantsville police departments are the first in Utah to receive the vests.
Syracuse police can expect the vests in about four months, Atkin said. The dogs are each measured, and the vests have handstitched custom embroidery on the body armor.
Marcal started the organization in 2000 to help police departments in Massachusetts. In 2009, it was incorporated as a non-profit and expanded its effort with help from volunteers, she said.