Senior Cpl. Dave Nails of the Dallas Police Department helped Baron show off a Kevlar vest Thursday at the Hall of State in Fair Park.
Argo, Baron and Pico are used to chasing after bad guys, unprotected and unarmed, except for their teeth. But now the Dallas police German shepherds and eight other dogs from K-9 units in McKinney and Holliday, outside Wichita Falls, have new bullet-resistant and stab-proof vests, courtesy of Vest ’N PDP. “These dogs are going in the danger before us,” said Senior Cpl. Armando Dominguez, Pico’s handler. “They will confront people before we can get to them. … These vests are definitely going to help.” Dallas resident Carol Archer helped bring the vests to Dallas, working as a liaison with Vest ’N PDP, which stands for police dog protection. During a citizen ride-along with Dominguez, she asked why Pico didn’t have a vest. “There was an armed suspect and here come all the officers,” Archer said. “And I see the dogs, ahead of everybody with nothing.” So she contacted Susie Jean, a New Mexico resident who created Vest ’N PDP about a decade ago after watching an episode of America’s Most Wanted in which a K-9 was killed. The dog managed to knock down the criminal who shot him, but then fell at his handler’s feet and died. Having just lost two of her own German shepherds to cancer, Jean empathized with the police officer and was shocked to learn that many police dogs work with no protection. “I called my local police department, asked if they needed [vests] and raised the money,” Jean said. Since then, she’s vested 733 police dogs in 43 states. Dominguez said police K-9s are killed almost weekly, and although Dallas police haven’t lost a dog, there have been close calls. The local K-9s will now be outfitted in Class 3 bullet- and stab-proof vests made of Kevlar, a synthetic material used in military armor. The dapper dogs modeled their new accessories Thursday in a presentation at the Hall of State in Fair Park. “It makes the dogs safer; it’s like a police officer wearing a vest,” Sgt. Tracy Smith said. “They’ll only wear them on certain calls, especially in the heat.” According to Jean, the vests can cost $16,000 per department, but she gets them at $750 a vest from her supplier. “A lot of times, departments can’t afford the vests,” said Jean, whose organization relies on public donations. Archer hung posters of Dominguez and the now-retired Pico at Dallas pet stores, and local donors helped pay for 11 vests for dogs from Dallas, McKinney and Holliday. Jean transported them in her RV from New Mexico. “I’m proud of the public,” she said. “I am a one-person organization, but it takes teamwork to make this possible.”