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K-9 Cops Get Bulletproof Vests

Police dogs in one Maryland county will soon be cruising their beats with extra confidence, thanks to a recent gift of some high-tech lifesaving gadgets.

The Humane Society has donated 21 Kevlar bulletproof vests, which cost $350 each, as well as sensors to monitor when a parked patrol car gets too hot for a dog left inside. The vests will go to Montgomery County's 17 police dogs as well as dogs with park police.

Sgt. Lee Marsh, commander of the county's canine corps, praised the bulletproof gear that his German shepherd will wear. "You could make the argument that this is a luxury," Marsh said. "But my life depends on how well he does his job."

Sharon Kessler, executive director of the local Humane Society, was inspired to make the donation after she saw a television program about Solo, a New Jersey police dog killed after a 23-hour standoff.

In the 40-year history of Montgomery County's canine department, only one dog, Blitz, has been shot and killed. In 1985, the police Rottweiler brought down an armed robbery suspect, who then stuck a handgun in Blitz's mouth and fired.

The United States Police Canine Association said a record six police dogs were killed by gunfire last year. Its director, Chief Russ Hess, said that because a dog costs $7,000 to buy and train, the vests are worthwhile. But Hess said there is no evidence indicating the vests have saved any police dogs.

Heat exhaustion is the most common cause of death for police dogs, he said.

The "Hot Dog" temperature monitors donated by the Humane Society should help Montgomery police dogs stay cool. Officers who must leave their dogs in the car usually switch on the air conditioner and leave the engine running. But if the car shuts down, the device automatically blows the car horn, turns on the lights and rolls down the windows while turning on a fan when the temperature gets dangerously high for dogs.

Dogs at the ceremony were hailed as "defenders of justice" by the Rev. Thomas Kane, who also blessed them with holy water from a stainless steel dog dish.