August 5th, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Investing In Cops K9 Partners

Massachusetts Non Profit Helps Provide Ballistic Vests, Training, Even Dogs To Police Agencies

By Kathy Hinds – President of Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog Program

PHOTO 3 LOGO MAVAD decal 15th Anniv FINALAll too often, police dog K9 programs manage to operate on fragile, slim or wholly donated budgets. You could be the one who makes the difference by implementing a K9 program in your community, or providing essential equipment that helps ensure a K9’s safety!

Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog has had the honor and privilege to support some of the Bay State’s police-dog K9 programs with an incredible team of volunteers and tremendously generous donors for over 15 years. Originally, we provided ballistic K9 vests and have since expanded our mission to include K9 equipment and funding for training and purchasing of police dogs. How did we go from providing the first K9 vest to 420 now, plus over $200,000 in equipment, training and dogs? Read on.

Batman

Tuco, nine-week-old puppy of patrol officer and head trainer Troy Caisey of the Boston Police Department’s K9 unit, will easily fit into this harness when full grown. (JONATHAN KOZOWYK)

The inspiration

In 2000, an 11-year-old girl named Stephanie Taylor was featured in The American Girl magazine as the founder of the national Vest-A-Dog program. My daughter, after reading the article, was compelled to vest a dog, as well and rallied her classmates.

 

Moved to action

The defining moment which inspired the actual creation of Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog was the tragic death of K9 Cero, killed in the line of duty on March 25, 2000. He was the devoted partner of Deputy William R. Niemi of the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office in Jefferson, Ohio.

 

Getting Started
PHOTO 2 DSC_0149 close up blitz w camera

A vest saved K9 Blitz’s life. He and his handler Major Kenneth Ballinger are now retired from the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts.

We met and chose a K9 team, learned what they did, what equipment they needed and why they needed it. Our enthusiastic nucleus of middle-school students grew to include volunteers of all ages who were passionate about ensuring the safety of their public-safety K9s. They sold dog and cat jewelry, asked for donations, held a coin drive, attended events such as group dog walks, pet events and expos; they even invited press coverage and networked with other humane nonprofit organizations.

 

Growing

We created a website, established a board of directors, implemented bylaws, became incorporated and successfully earned the 501(c)3 nonprofit status, which is recognized by the IRS allowing for tax-deductable donations. Once established, we held a multimedia campaign that included social media as well as radio and television public service announcements.

 

Sustaining

In order to sustain momentum, we participate in about 50 events a year, hold an annual fundraiser, and now that we have just celebrated our 15th anniversary with a new line of merchandise, Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog continues to extend sincere gratitude to all donors and volunteers who give year and after year.

Beny down vestedWe know our efforts are helping to make a difference; a vest saved K9 Blitz’s life during a SWAT response; cruiser kennels and heat-alarm-door popper systems have been activated; bite suits and sleeves have replaced dangerously old and over-used equipment; and departments that were faced with ending their K9 program due to lack of funds, have now purchased a K9 and have a patrol dog on duty.

Our efforts are drawn from a strong desire to protect the dogs that help protect us and our tremendous gratitude to the K9 teams who lead the way. I hope you will consider reaching out to support your local K9 team(s). ASJ

 

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