Law Enforcement K9 in Sweetwater County to Receive Body Armor
K9 Sergeant Arry expected to get protective vest in February
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Dec 27, 2023
By Shen Wu Tan
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Police officers wear protective gear while on the job, so why not their canine partners?
K9 Sergeant Arry, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois from Czechia at the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, will soon receive donated body armor from Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., the law enforcement agency recently announced.
“In 2022, 25 law enforcement K9s were killed in the line of duty; 11 of these K9 officers were killed by gunfire,” said Jason Mower, public affairs director for the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office. “More than just a sizable investment to obtain, train and certify, our K9 officers are not only an invaluable law enforcement tool but also our partners and friends. Most of our K9s retire to live with their human partners as family pets.”
Arry has been trained in handler protection, tracking, obedience, apprehension, narcotics detection and area, building and article searches. He’s been with the office since March 2022, and his assigned partner and handler is Deputy Sheriff Amanda Buller.
The dog’s bullet- and stab-proof vest is custom-fitted and certified by the National Institute of Justice ballistic and protective standards. Each protective vest includes a five-year warranty, weighs about four to five pounds and costs around $1,800.
The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office anticipates the vest will arrive sometime in February. Mower said the office has three working canine deputies, including Arry, who are or will be outfitted with body armor from Vested Interest in K9s.
“The dogs who work in the line of duty are exposed to dangerous situations on a regular basis so it’s imperative that they have the same level of protection as their human counterparts,” Sandy Marcal, president of Vested Interest in K9s, told the Wyoming Truth. “Oftentimes, the dogs are the first ones sent in when in the line of duty.”
Vested Interest in K9s has distributed over 5,400 protective vests to canines in all 50 states, valued at roughly $6.9 million since its establishment in 2009, according to Marcal. The nonprofit charitable organization, headquartered in Massachusetts, strives to provide dogs of law enforcement and related agencies with body armor and other assistance throughout the United States. Marcal noted the nonprofit donates around 400 to 500 ballistic vests yearly.
Several agencies in Wyoming also have received body armor from the nonprofit group, including Mills Police Department’s K9 Archer. In 2021, protective vests were donated to K9 Frankie with the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, K9 Tyler with the Cheyenne Police Department and K9s Zeke and Copper with the Wyoming Department of Corrections.
“The important thing that a lot of people aren’t aware of is these dogs oftentimes go home with the handlers, and they live with the families,” Marcal said. “So, not only are they valued members of the community, but they are very much a part of the officer’s family….”
To be eligible for a vest, dogs must be actively employed with law enforcement or first responders in the U.S., certified with their handlers, at least 20 months of age and not scheduled for retirement within 12 months of a request. Dogs also must not have a current issue ballistic vest.
In addition to vests, Vested Interest in K9s has donated 2,800 K9 opioid reversal NARCAN kits, over $151,660 in K9 medical first-aid kits, three Chevy Tahoes specially fitted for a K9 unit valued at over $50,000 each and an advanced canine medical trainer.