The solicitor for Lewisberry Borough has a vested interest in making sure Newberry Township's police K-9 is as safe as possible while on the job.
"Police officers wear bulletproof vests — why not the dogs?" asked attorney Dan Altland, who lives in Fairview Township.
Newberry Township Police provide police service to Lewisberry, including K-9 Tazer and his human partner, Officer Chris Martinez.
"In December I learned about (Tazer's) apprehension of a (man) who had stolen some scrap metal," Altland said. "I heard of other police dogs being hurt and thought, 'I wonder if (Tazer) has a vest.'"
He didn't, Martinez said, because that was an expense the department could not afford.
"These vests are about $2,500," Martinez said. "They cost about three times more than our (officers') vests cost, because they are also stab-resistant."
Vested Interest: But thanks to Altland and a national nonprofit group called Vested Interest in K-9s Inc., Tazer now has his own custom-fit, state-of-the-art vest, Martinez said.
Altland donated $1,000 to Vested Interest in K-9s, which then outfitted Tazer.
Altland said he recently had the chance to watch Tazer do training exercises while wearing his new vest.
"It didn't bother him a bit. He could jump up on the 5-foot wall and run as fast as ever," the attorney said. "It's a great feeling, especially when you see the dog wearing the vest and liking it, then hearing someone explain how important it is."
And Martinez said the vest will be extremely important for his canine partner. Stitched on it, with Altland's blessing, is "In memory of K-9 Rocco."
Honoring Rocco: Rocco, a Pittsburgh Police K-9, died Jan. 30 from stab wounds he suffered Jan. 28 while protecting his handler and a second officer, both of whom were struggling with a convicted sex offender, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
"It reminds you just how dangerous this job is," Martinez said. "Tazer is there to protect me and any other officers, and I'm going to do everything I can to protect him. This vest gives him an increased chance of (surviving an attack)."
Martinez said he previously tried to have Tazer wearing an old K-9 vest, but in addition to being a poor fit, it also was very bulky and heavy. The new vest is none of those, he said.
"From the minute I placed it on the dog, it was a custom fit," he said. "I was very excited when I saw how sleek it is, and how much smaller it is than our previous one. ... The technology has improved."
Vested Interest in K-9s has provided bulletproof and stab-resistant vests to 1,074 dogs since 2009, according to the group's website, www.vik9s.org.
Other York K-9s: There are three other police K-9s in York County — Petro with Springettsbury Township Police, and Lt. Lou and Capt. Dargo with the York County Sheriff's Office.
Dargo has a vest, handler Lt. David Godfrey said.
Lou doesn't wear a vest because bloodhounds overheat too quickly, according to his handler, Sgt. Sam Shipley, who said he tries not to put Lou — a tracking bloodhound — in dangerous situations.
Petro has a vest but it is old, according to Springettsbury Township Police Chief Tom Hyers, who said the department is looking to upgrade to a better, newer K-9 vest.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.