ERLANGER, KY (FOX19) - One member of the Erlanger Police Department will be better protected while on duty. The department's K9 unit is the first in Kentucky to receive a stab and bullet proof vest.
Last year, 17 K9s across the nation died in the line of duty, and one nonprofit and a local volunteer are doing all they can to protect K9s like Asco.
"It can save his life, it's very beneficial for the department," says officer Chad Girdler.
These vests are similar to the one humans wear and Officer Girdler says it's designed to protect against violent encounters with suspects - bullets, knives, or even punches.
"It doesn't hurt as much and it doesn't take as much out of the dog when he's in that fight," says Girdler.
Officer Girdler says this tool is especially beneficial because they're the first unit inside on a suspect trap or a building search.
"I'm not looking for a suspect, I'm watching the dog and responding to what he's telling me, and we are very vulnerable. We are very open to somebody who knows we're coming," explains Girdler.
Most law enforcement agencies don't have the money to buy this type of protection. The retail on these vests is more than $2500, but through a national nonprofit called Vested Interest in K9's, they run about $950.
"These dogs are first responders and they go in dangerous situations everyday and just like our police officers they deserve to be protected," says Linda Krivsky.
Linda Krivsky is the Northern Kentucky lead coordinator for Vested Interest, an organization that was founded in 2009. This group has provided nearly 600 vests to law enforcement dogs across the nation.
Krivsky says it took her only three days to collect all the donations for Asco's vest.
"Once all my neighbors heard the story, they all wanted to contribute. I just have a soft spot in my heart for all police officers," says Krivsky.
One Tri-State K9 named Kilo died in the line of duty last summer. Indiana State Police took the loss pretty hard.
Officer Girdler and Asco have been a team since September. He says the thought of losing him in the line of duty is tough to contemplate.
"[It's] difficult to explain the relationship. It's similar to the relationship you have with your own child," says Girdler.
The goal is to raise nearly $4,000 to buy vests for the Newport, Dayton, and the Highland Heights police departments. Vested Interest hopes to have them ready sometime this year.
Check out Vests for Tri-State K9s fundraising page here http://www.razoo.com/story/vestsfortri-statek9s.