Drive to save dogs' lives

Cub Scouts to raise money to purchase bullet-proof vests for area K-9 departments

Last Modified:
1:04 a.m. 10/26/2002

Topeka, Kansas                             

By Tim Hrenchir
The Capital-Journal
 Wearing a simulation of a bullet proof vest, K-9 Rico, a Belgian Malinois with the Topeka Police Department, enjoys a little play time with his handler, Officer Kelly Roberts, of the Topeka Police Department's Street Crime Action Team.
Earl Richardson/The Capital-Journal

Four years ago, a Topeka police dog lost his life in the line of duty. A belligerent, knife-wielding man stabbed the German shepherd, Sevo, several times after police were called in September 1998 to a disturbance in central Topeka. Sevo's partner, officer Scott Gilchrist, shot the assailant, who survived. Sevo didn't, dying of his wounds about three months later.

Now, a local Cub Scout pack hopes to save other canine cops from the same fate. Bryant Hertel, assistant Cubmaster of Pack 246 at Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church, says the pack is trying to raise at least $30,000 to buy bulletproof vests for police dogs that work for area law enforcement agencies. The Kevlar vests would be acquired through Vest-A-Dog Inc., a nonprofit group based in Oceanside, Calif. The vests are bullet- and stab-proof. They cost $695 each, and would be bought from International Armor Corp. Hertel said he recently contacted various law enforcement agencies in the Topeka area and found that none provided bulletproof vests for their police dogs.Topeka police Lt. John Sidwell said vests for police dogs came into prominence two or three years ago. He said Topeka police have no such vests because the department has lacked money in its budget to buy them. Sidwell said police were "happy and thankful" that Pack 246 was raising money to buy the vests. Topeka K-9 officer Kelly Roberts said the department's K-9 unit hoped to acquire vests for 10 dogs, though one wouldn't be needed for an 11th dog that is semi-retired and used only for drug detection. K-9 handlers would welcome the extra protection for their dogs, which often confront danger as they work to take a bite out of crime. "Any time they go into a building to do a building search, they don't know what's in there," Roberts said. Audio
Kelly Roberts, Topeka K-9 officer

News of a New Jersey police dog's death in the line of duty led to the formation in 1999 of Vest-A-Dog Inc. According to the organization's Web page, 11-year-old Stephanie Taylor read about how a humane society in New Jersey had started raising money to vest police dogs after canine officer named "Solo" was killed in that state. Stephanie reacted by collecting money to buy a bulletproof vest for a police dog in her home of Oceanside, Calif. Her effort grew into the formation of Vest-A-Dog, which has vested more than 1,000 police dogs in the United States and Canada. Hertel said Pack 246 got involved after his wife learned about Vest-A-Dog while watching the "America's Most Wanted" TV program.K-9 Vests" is the name of the group raising money locally. So far, organizers have collected more than $5,000, including a $3,600 donation received Wednesday consisting of $1,200 each from both local Wal-Marts and Sam's Club. For more information, e-mail Hertel at Donations are tax-deductible and may be made to a fund at any Commerce Bank and Trust Co. location.K-9 Vests Cub Scout Pack 246 hopes to raise at least $30,000 to buy 43 bulletproof vests for area police dogs at $695 each. More than $5,000 has been raised. Here is how 34 vests would be distributed. Other vests would go to area agencies yet to be determined:   Topeka Police Department:   Kansas Highway Patrol:  Shawnee County Sheriff's Office:   Kansas Wildlife and Parks:   Jefferson County Sheriff's Department:  Wabaunsee County Sheriff's Department:   Jackson County Sheriff's Department:   Potawatomi Tribal Police: 1Approximate cost of of the 34 vests: $23,630.