You don't see too many human beings wearing vests much in public anymore. Last I heard they were a bit of a fashion risk. But there are some new vests that qualify as super cool.
The 's three police dogs — Ingo, Lex and Metz — will be presented with protective vests during the station's public Saturday (one dog, Metz, will receive his later). They are donations from a Peninsula-based nonprofit called the Police and Working Canine Foundation run by Louise Tully.
"Novato PD is very appreciative of Louise and the efforts of her foundation," Novato police Captain Jim Berg said. "These vests will provide an added level of safety for our canines when they are in situations that would expose them to even greater threats."
K9 Tactical Gear of Penryn, near Roseville, makes the $1,300 vests, Tully said. She favors that brand because they are a bit easier to put on quickly in case of emergency than other brands. She said she has seen vests inhibit dogs on obstacle courses and other training sessions, and she has worked with manufacturers on design tweaks.
"They are continuing to innovate," she said. "Police forces are realizing that these are important pieces of protective gear, but they can't be too restrictive on the dog. If they are not custom-fit or allow the dog to run or jump freely, they might end up staying in the trunk of the car."
Cover Your K-9, based in Woodside, is a volunteer-run organization of about 25 people that started about three years ago. Many of the funds that support the group come from events held at Pet Food Express stores. There are two locations in Novato — one at and one at the — and donations can be made there anytime, Tully said. Special events with dog demonstrations are set for June 30/July 1.
"We do that to educate the public," she said. "We would not be able to do what we do on this scale without the support of Pet Food Express."
Tully said she has heard lots of positive feedback from police and other law enforcement officials about how the vests have protected dogs when a perpetrator has a gun or knife. If a canine officer knows he is reporting to the scene where a suspect is known to have a weapon, more often he is taking the time to put the vest on the dog, she said.
"There have been plenty of instances up and down the state and across the national in which dogs have been shot or assaulted by suspects," Berg said. "The dogs certainly have no fear and willingly put their lives on the line without thinking about it. We're thankful that these vests might prevent injuries to our dogs."
Berg added that fundraising is ongoing to support Novato's three police dogs. Officer Jeff Ames and his dog, Metz, are getting ready to go to narcotics detection training and — depending on funding — Officer Mike Braun with Ingo and Officer Kendrick Pilegaard with Lex will get to attend as well. The training costs just under $4,000 per dog/handler, and other ongoing training runs $1,700 per year per dog/handler.
Also, the police force is hoping to obtain two more heat alarms that notify the handler remotely when the interior of a police vehicle reaches a certain temperature — too hot for a dog. The handler can open the door of a hot vehicle remotely with the device, which runs more than $1,000. Novato PD has one unit but needs two more.
Tully said she is filled with pride whenever Cover Your K9 can provide the free vests to a police department.
"It's very rewarding and touches my heart," Tully said. "The dog is not only the handler's partner and defends them in a daily basis but they are partners 24 hours a day. To know that we are helping protect dogs who put their lives on line for the community as well as their handlers makes us feel great."
If you'd like to make a tax-deductable contribution to Novato's police dogs, write a check to Novato Police Department K9 Unit and send it care of Captain Jim Berg, 909 Machin Ave., Novato 94945. Donors can also contribute to the Pennies for Police Dogs campaign at branches.