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Spotsylvania K-9 dog gets bulletproof vest
K-9 bomb dog gets bulletproof vest

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Date published: 8/6/2003

By JODI BIZAR

They work for long hours and are the first ones on the front line in a dangerous situation.

To top it off, they work for free.

But the good news is that the K-9 squad at the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office is finally being provided with something other members of the agency already wear--bulletproof vests.

All across the country, K-9 dogs have been executed, shot in squad cars, or poisoned in their back yards. Investigations have shown those dogs were victims of contract killings by drug lords and others wanting revenge.

That's why the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office took this new measure to protect its dogs.

The office recently purchased three bulletproof vests made specially for its four-legged workers.

"It's for the dogs' protection," said Maj. Howard Smith. "These dogs are part of our family."

None of the Spotsylvania sheriff's dogs has been killed in the line of duty, but a K-9 squad dog in Orange County was.

"There are contracts put out on these dogs. We know that," Smith said.

He said they have nine dogs that are responsible for searches, drug detection and a host of other things.

One of the K-9 squad's members is 2-year-old Nitro, a bomb-detection dog. His trainer has been having the dog practice wearing the two-pound vest.

Officers say they have to be careful because the vests are hot, and heat is far more threatening to a dog than to a person because dogs don't have sweat glands.

"It'll be all right," said Nitro's handler, Deputy Edward Boyd. "It's like a kid in a new winter coat. At first they put it on and it's bulky, but then they start playing and forget all about it. It'll be that way with Nitro."

Boyd worries about Nitro because Nitro is the first to enter a building and search for a bomb. He's been trained to sit or bark if he detects a bomb or a person in an evacuated structure. He's never wrong, Boyd says.

The sheriff's office gets an average of two bomb calls a month. Fortunately, 99 percent of them are bogus.

However, once in a while they're not.


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