Alongside some police officers are their trusty canine partners making drug busts, investigating dangerous situations and catching criminals, all of which can often put them in the line of fire.
That’s where Vest-A-Dog comes in.
The program, a national network which includes numerous community chapters across the country, works to protect the K-9 officers.
Locally, Vest-A-Dog Orange County is committed to fundraising to provide bulletproof and stabproof vests to police K-9s throughout the county. They aim to raise community awareness of the dangers faced by police dogs and their need for protective vests.
The OC chapter was founded by Corona del Mar High School student, Jenny Conde.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors honored Vest-A-Dog OC during a presentation at their meeting on Tuesday. Supervisor Michelle Steel presented Conde and the club with a special resolution recognizing them for their efforts.
The students are saving the lives of the K-9s, who, in turn, are helping save the lives of others, Steel said.
The dogs often enter dangerous situations before their human handlers, she explained. The custom-fit vests are flexible enough so the dog and still have full range and mobility, while giving them extra protection, Steel said.
The group has raised more than $20,000 and provided 10 dogs with vests, with another five on the way, Steel noted.
“They are doing a great job,” Steel said.
But they still need more, she added.
Former police officer and OC Board Chairman Todd Spitzer noted that being able to have a dog on certain calls, like a building search, can be a very settling experience.
“I was always indebted to the K-9s,” Spitzer said.
Several K-9 units and police officers were on hand for the presentation. Corona del Mar High School principal Kathy Scott and the CdMHS Vest-A-Dog club staff advisor Tory Hughes were also in attendance.
“I am so impressed as to their sense of civic responsibility,” Supervisor Andrew Do added. “I think this sense of civic duty will carry you very far in life.”
It’s a wonderful way to give back to the community, he noted.
He also thanked the officers and their canine partners.
“We appreciate you out there every day protecting us,” Do said. “And to your partners, your canine partners, they really are on the front line in addressing the threats we face every day and we are grateful for their contribution.”
Newport Beach Police Department’s School Resource Officer for Corona del Mar High School, Vlad Anderson, recalled how the CdM club started in 2012.
“One day a very motivated student came up to me with this great idea, something I never would have fathomed a young person doing,” Anderson said.
Conde, a freshman at the time, told him she’d like to start a club and purchase vests for the canine officers of Newport Beach.
“It is truly amazing what Jenny (Conde) and the rest of the students at CdM have accomplished,” said Anderson to applause – and some barking – from the audience.
Vice President of Orange County Police Canine Association and La Habra police officer Nick Baclit thanked the Vest-A-Dog kids for their “hard work and dedication in supplying all of our dogs vests and keeping us safe.”
“Not only are we thankful, but we’re also very proud of your accomplishments,” he added.
Spitzer also mentioned the Orange County Police Canine Association’s annual benefit show. The event showcases the dogs’ best moves
They perform various exercise skits to show off their strength and agility. Guests can meet the K-9s and their handlers and take photos. The fundraiser also includes a vendor fair, music, and food and drink.
It is scheduled for Oct. 3 at Glover Stadium in Anaheim.
It’s a great event for a great cause.
There was a movement to remove K-9s from police work because of their liability issues when the dogs engage in fights, Spitzer noted.
“I will continue to fight, and I know my colleagues will continue to fight, to protect K-9s,” he said, “because they are very important law enforcement officers and they save lives.”