A vested interest in police K9s

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The Iowa City community is raising money to help a dog that works full-time for the city.

Last week, one resident started a GoFundMe webpage to raise funds for Falo, a University of Iowa K9, who does not have a ballistics vest despite encountering similar dangers that police officers face on a daily basis. The group has raised more than $3,500 so far.

“It’ll help me feel a little more confident that if he is assaulted — his survival chances will increase,” said Officer Jackie Anderson, Falo’s handler.

Assaults are an unfortunate part of police work, she said, and she can’t pretend they won’t happen.

Resident Lisa Kim became concerned about the dog’s safety after hearing of a K9 in Las Vegas that was injured, recovered, and then killed shortly after while working with a police department. As a friend of Anderson’s, Kim went for a ride-along and decided something should be done.

“That’s when I found out that vests are not standard issue for K9s,” she said. “I was kind of appalled considering they’re a part of the police force. All of the officers are mandated to wear vests, but not the K9s.”

While many local dogs wear vests as part of their regular equipment, many departments cannot afford K9 units, let alone bulletproof vests for them. The total cost to obtain and train a police dog is approximately $20,000. Kim also said the vests decided upon cost around $3,500.

Kim has met her goal of $3,500 and has since raised her goal to $17,000 in hopes to fit other dogs in Johnson County with vests. Anderson said the UI police have two K9s, both of which are trained to detect explosive devices and to track people.

In recent months, a vest for the other UI police K9, Yago, was donated by a UI staff member. UI police Capt. Mark Bullocks said discussions on budgeting these vests have taken place, but the price tag is hard to fit into the budget, he said.

“At this point, it isn’t something we’ve been able to fit into the budget, but to say that we’ve never thought about it I think would be unfair,” he said. “We’re very lucky that some outside citizens are making that come true a little sooner.”

Bullocks pointed out that some police departments cannot mandate that their officers wear bulletproof vests because of a lack of funds, but the UI police always work to fund the K9 unit sufficiently.

“The K9s are essentially part of the family,” Bullock said. “The K9 handlers become very attached to them and provide great tactical resource for us, so we’re always looking for ways to better protect them, better equip them.”

Anderson said the vests decided upon will be custom fit for Falo. She made a choice after many conversations with other handlers during trainings in Cedar Rapids, where local K9 officers often train. K9 Storm is lightweight, she said, but Falo will still have to get used to it.

“Our intent with these vests is that the dogs wear them just like I wear my vest,” she said. “When I’m at work, I have my vest on. When Falo is at work, he’ll wear one, too.”

Anderson also noted that Falo will have to wear the vest regularly because one sinks to their lowest level of training in the middle of an incident. It would be unreasonable to only wear the vest when going into action, Anderson said.

“When you introduce the dog to anything new, it’s just kind of baby stepping it,” she said. “We’ll make some fun out of it. He knows when it’s time to go to work, so I’ll add the vest into that, and it’ll just become part of his day.”

To donate money, visit the GoFundMe online page for Falo. There is also a women’s self-defense seminar on April 30 at 2001 Stevens Drive Suite 1, and proceeds will go to the vest fund. Cost is $30 per person.

 

 

 

 

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