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K-9 Handler: Use Of Protective Vests Decided On Case-By-Case Basis

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Police dogs are considered police officers, and in many situations, they're also geared up to go into dangerous situations.

But in the case of the K-9 stabbed to death in Wilkinsburg over the weekend, the dog was not wearing a protective vest.

Ryker is a 2-year-old police K-9. His partner is Officer Garrett Kimmell, of Elizabeth Borough Police. Officer Kimmell says he feels for his Port Authority Police counterpart.

"He protected his handler, and that's what this dog will do. We're with them 24\7, 365 days a year," Officer Kimmell said. "I can't imagine what's going through that handler's mind. I just got [Ryker] in May. I've been with him less than a year. I can't imagine."

The Port Authority says K-9 Officer Aren was not wearing his protective vest, which Officer Kimmell says is not that unusual.

"The dog doesn't have the ability to vent heat the way a human police officer does, and it impedes their mobility somewhat, where it doesn't really impede ours," Officer Kimmell said. "It's absolutely case-by-case by the handler every day."

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While they may be cumbersome, the vests do protect the dog's vital organs from a bullet or stab wound, but there are limitations.

"Nothing that's going to protect the head and the face," said Gerard Purcell, a master trainer.

And that is where Aren was stabbed, succumbing to the wounds despite the emergency vet's best efforts.

Purcell says it's sad, but understood the possibility in police K-9 work.

"Luckily, we're not burying an officer," said Purcell. "It's a sad thing to lose a K-9 partner, especially for Officer [Brian] O'Malley and his family and the department."

Later this week, when police gather to honor Aren's service, Officer Kimmell and Ryker plan to be there.

Aren was a four-year veteran of the Port Authority Police Department. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office says he died "as a result of bleeding from an incised wound of the oral cavity."

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