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Central Texas girl earns money for Bryan police dog vests

April 3, 2017

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Bryan police dogs Rox and Blitz will have a little added protection thanks to the efforts of an elementary school student and a local dog training company.

The Eagle (http://bit.ly/2oBgy2P ) reports the two Belgian Malinois began training with the Bryan Police Department last summer and hit the streets as official K-9 officers in the fall. In February, the two received specially made ballistic vests, and police and dogs recently met with those who made the purchase of the vests a little easier for the police department.

Neither dog had previously had any form of bodily protection, as vests need to be specially selected and designed. A portion of the department’s budget needs to be allocated for the expense, which can take time.

Enter 10-year-old Kaydee Muntean.

The College Station fourth-grader — along with her family — decided she could do something to help Rox and Blitz get the protection they needed.

“I went with my family to watch barrel racing at the rodeo last year, and they had a (demonstration) with police dogs,” Muntean explained. “I care for dogs and thought it would be good for them to have protection.”

The Greens Prairie Elementary School student opened a lemonade stand on National Lemonade Day in May, raising money for the Bryan Police Department. Rox and Blitz stopped by to visit her that day, as did so many local patrons that Muntean easily made the $800 needed for one vest.

The young animal lover was soon in partnership with dog training company Sit Means Sit, which also had heard of a need for the vests. In addition to donating their own company funds, the owners of the local franchise hosted a second fundraising event with Muntean, raising the final amount needed for both dogs to be covered.

“I have a military background,” local Sit Means Sit owner Ryan Leach said. “As an Army officer, I’ve been around working dogs, and my livelihood depended on them. They’re not only pets and like members of the family, but they’re also your co-workers. You just realize that connection and how horrible it would be if the dog got hurt.”

Officer Scott Jones, Rox’s partner, was present at the meet-and-greet at Sit Means Sit on Wednesday and demonstrated some of the functions of the vest. The vest encapsulates all of Rox’s torso, including his belly, and will protect him against knives and low-caliber bullets. Links and hoops are strategically positioned so that Jones can hold Rox back, or even scoop the dog up like a laundry basket should he be injured.

“This is specially made,” Jones said of the vest by Armor Express. “We put in the time and research to have things like webbing put in -- here we could even have a camera attached to him at some point. It has that capability. ... Also, a big thing with these is the breathability. The material doesn’t breathe a whole lot, but it does provide a little more area for him to release body heat.”

Sgt. Chad Hanks, who oversees the K-9 division, said the public loves the dogs, and people often call in wanting to donate to the furry officers. Hanks pointed out that spending nearly $1,700 on dog vests isn’t a trivial expense.

“If you look at the investment our department makes in these dogs — each dog costing $8,000 new to us with no training — if the dog were shot and killed, we would lose all of that,” Hanks said. “There’s also value in how much these dogs protect the officers.”

Rox and Blitz may be required to act as a first line of defense for their officers, he said. The dogs might be sent into a hostile situation ahead of their humans to check that the area is clear. The presence of the dogs also de-escalates violent situations, making criminals less likely to try to harm an officer on scene.

Hanks said the vests came in February thanks to Sit Means Sit and Muntean’s efforts. Though no one has tried to harm the dogs, Blitz wore his vest earlier this month when a state trooper was shot at outside of Academy Sports in College Station. The dogs won’t wear their protection during daily activity, but rather in tactical situations involving firearms. The vests only take a matter of seconds to strap on with Velcro, and the canines don’t resist.

“They know what it means,” Hanks said. “They know it’s time to go to work.”

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Information from: The Eagle, http://www.theeagle.com

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