Fundraiser hopes to help National City police buy bulletproof K-9 vests

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NATIONAL CITY, Calif. — National City Police officers want to better protect their four-legged partners.

Their police K-9s routinely train with other agencies, including Chula Vista Police and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Those agencies’ dogs wear bulletproof vests, but the National City K-9s do not.

Officers wear bulletproof vests and say their dogs should have them too.

“They live with each other, they go home together, they work together all day," Sgt. Alex Hernandez said. "They have a great bond, you can tell, when they’re working out in the field. We have great handlers."

Sat, one of the dogs, tried on the type of bulletproof vest the officers hope to purchase soon.

He has been working for the force for four years and has never worn a vest, but his handler and other handlers say their dogs are often better than human partners at times.

“It’s just amazing. It might even be better to have a dog than actually have an officer. I don’t have to hear any complaining from him, all he wants for me is to pet him and play with him,” Officer Raziel Quiroga said.

Protecting the three active K-9s working for National City Police will cost some cash. Each bulletproof vest costs just under $3,000 and community members are stepping up to get the funding.

The Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis clubs and American Legion joined forces to organize a pancake breakfast for Sunday, Feb. 2.

Tickets cost $5 and attendees can fill up on pancakes, eggs, sausage and juice from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the National City American Legion, 35 East 18th Street.

Officers said the fundraiser came at a time the need to suit up their dogs hit close to home.

The National City K-9 unit attended a funeral last week in Riverside County where a sheriff’s department dog was shot and killed during a pursuit. He became one of only two police dogs killed nationwide this year.

Last year, 20 dogs were killed in the line of duty and in 2013, 17 died.

The bulletproof vests could help keep National City police dogs from becoming part of those statistics. The vests protect a dog’s chest and rib cage during dangerous encounters.

“When we go and find the bad guys, he thinks it’s a game it’s all just a game for him he just wants to play,” Officer Quiroga said.

Unlike their human companions, the dogs don’t realize the risks that come with their often dangerous jobs.

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