WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- With community help, some Wilmington and New Hanover County law enforcement agents of the four legged variety are safer on the streets. Just like their human handlers the K9s now have the safety of a bullet and stab proof vests.
Tails were wagging at paws and claws Saturday as they were formally presented to the agents.
For the men and women of the Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, getting a new bullet proof vest for the K9 officers means more than just protecting the dogs.
Police officer Kendall Murphy is the first female handler for the department. She said she's glad her dog Diablo will be protected. "That would be me losing my best friend and my partner," Murphy said. I mean I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about what could happen."
Deputy Jason Cummings said when he lost his last dog to kidney failure he had to take two weeks off work. "He's like a family member. I spend more time with him than with my family and my friends," Cummings said. "He comes home with us. We go on vacation together and obviously we work together." He said, they are basically together 24 hours a day
The dogs go through intense training starting as a puppy.
They aim to please and never hold back when entering a dangerous situation, so these vests will not change the way they perform, but they will give their handlers peace of mind.
Murphy said, "He's gonna be protected and I don't have to worry about that portion of it."
They do not have to worry thanks to the help of the community.
Dr. Sam Smith has been the official K9 veterinarian for about 17 years. He said he started doing some research on the vests and it was like a light bulb went off, "let's get these things," Smith said. "As far as how we were gonna pay for them I thought It would take a year."
But it didn't take that long at all.
Every time a patient walked through the doors of Paws and Claws, they were able to make a donation at the front desk. After only three months, they raised all the money they needed for the vests.
it tremendously exceeded my expectations. I couldn't believe the generosity," said Smith.
Murphy sends a big thank you to everyone who contributed.
"It's really nice to know the community cares this much about our dogs," Murphy said. "As much as we care about them we care about them too."
Each vest is custom fitted to the dog and Cummings said they usually cost around $2,000.