Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Protecting K-9 Officers from Harm

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Protecting K-9 Officers from Harm

Article excerpt

Byline: Cindy Holifield

Deputies need to be protected from injury, but so do the K-9s that are just doing what they're trained to do.

Four K-9s from the Flagler County Sheriff's Office have received bulletproof vests and cooling packs from members of the local chapter of Blue Knights International.

The K-9s cost about $10,000 each and, with training and equipment expenses, they're actually about $18,000 each. They are trained in narcotics detection, bomb-sniffing, apprehension or missing person searches and are committed to their human partners, according to Sheriff Rick Staly.

Staly thanked the Blue Knights for the safety vests and said, "We want to protect our deputies and our four-legged ones, too."

"At least 28 K-9s were killed in 2016, including a Volusia County K-9 last November," said George Zampella, vice president of the Blue Knights chapter and himself a retired K-9 police officer. "This year at least five have died in the line of duty."

Zampella launched the idea to equip the K-9s, and two local groups, the Palm Coast Elks Lodge and the Blue Knights, began a mission in 2016 to raise $8,000 to equip four of the five K-9s in Flagler. One dog was already outfitted with a ballistic bulletproof and stab-proof vest in 2015.

Through community donations and fundraisers, the groups raised the money to provide the vests and special cooling packs worn underneath to keep the dogs cool when they are working in the Florida heat. Each dog is being outfitted with six cooling packs, Zampella said, which can be worn 2,200 times.

The Flagler K-9 teams are Sgt. John Welker with partner Jax; Deputy Robert Tarczewski and Tag; Deputy Fred Gimbel and Marko; Deputy Brandon Fiveash and Kaos; and Deputy Jonathon Duenas in K-9 training.

Here's more good news:

- Casey Herron, 18, achieved Scouting's highest honor, the rank of Eagle Scout, on Feb. …

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