LEHI, Utah (News4Utah) In the past few years we have shared sad stories of K9 officers here in Utah. Unified Police K9 Officer Aldo was shot and killed in 2016 during an arrest attempt.
In 2017, K9 Dingo was killed in the line of duty helping U.S. Marshals with a violent fugitive. The dogs were not wearing protective vests. In this Behind the Badge report, we tell you about a donation that aims to reduce the chances of that happening again.
A K9 tactical vest can often save a dog that comes under fire or a knife attack. However, some departments don’t have the money to buy these vests. That is why a recent donation of K9 vests to local police departments in Utah County is both incredible and very important.
To watch a K9 officer in action is amazing. And the role they play in catching the bad guys is priceless. Sadly, some of these four-legged officers go into the line of fire without the same ballistic vest protection as their handlers.
Officer Ryan Scarr with Saratoga Springs Police says, “Our department can’t pay for that stuff. It’s something that budget wise – if they were to pay for one of those – that’s almost a whole year’s budget for a dog.”
But because of a generous donation, that is changing for a handful of Utah County police departments. Officer Scarr explains how he was told about the donation.
“She just called me one day and said I want to put a vest on your dog.” Lone Peak Police officer Travis Bellon and his K9 Arko had a similar experience. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe that someone was willing to donate money – they hadn’t met me or the dog. Willing to cough up all that money to protect the dog,” said Bellon.
The K9 vest donations didn’t stop with those departments. American Fork Police officers were offered two vests. And the Lehi Police Department, which has four K9 officers and handlers, received a vest for each dog.
“She not only said she is not going to just buy them from the get-go, but as soon as they expired before they expire were going to have new ones made for them,” said Lt. Lt. Levi Lewis with Lehi police.
Officers say having a vest for their K9 partners is really a game changer.
“He can go places I might normally not send him if he didn’t have a vest. But now with the vest – I know he is better protected going into the unknown,” said Officer Bellon.
Lt. Lewis says having their police dogs in vests also gives them peace of mind.
“As you can see these dogs are our life. They come home with us every night. We spend more time with these dogs sometimes than we do with our family. It’s like a kid to us,” said Lt. Lewis.
Because tactical K9 vests are hot and heavy most of the time the dogs are not wearing their vests, but Lewis says when they bring them out, their pawed partners know it is ‘go time’.
“He knows as soon as I put that on him it’s time to go to work. Something serious is going on.” The recent donations cover K9’s in Lehi, Saratoga Springs, American Fork and Lone Peak and each tactical vest costs around $1,500.
As for the generous and anonymous donor– Lt. Lewis would only say she has a personal reason for doing this and doesn’t want any recognition.
To check out past Behind the Badge stories and nominate someone for a future story go to https://www.good4utah.com/badge