Lorena police dog gets better protection amid rise in K9 officer deaths

2022 is on track to be one of the deadliest ever for police K9s
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 12:17 AM CDT
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LORENA, Texas (KWTX) - As K9 deaths are rising nationwide in 2022, a local police K9 has been awarded a grant for a new, customized ballistic vest.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 14 K9 officers have been killed in the line-of-duty this year, mostly from gunfire.

Last year there were 21 deaths, in 2019 there were 28 deaths, and by far the most police dog deaths occurred in 2016 with 36, according to ODMP.

There appears to be a steady rise leading up to 2019 as in 2001 there were just six reported, and the majority of the deaths in all years are from gunfire with heatstroke also a top killer.

To keep his dog from becoming a statistic, Officer Jay Greer, a K9 handler for the Lorena Police Department, applied for his a $3,000 grant to get his partner Drogen a special vest.

CG: Jay Greer/K9 PATROL OFFICER, LORENA PD

“We’re pretty much joined at the hip,” said Greer. “It (losing him) would be like losing your best friend really.”

While Drogen, a dual K9 from Poland certified in narcotics detection and apprehension and tracking, has yet to have a bite, Greer says they’ve come close numerous times and he wants to make sure the two-year-old German Shephard has every advantage possible for survival in case he does have to use force.

“A lot of times when you send them in, which is kind of a harrowing experience for a handler, but that is his job to go in and apprehend and locate the subject, and a lot of times they’re carrying edged weapons or a gun, and the K9 officer takes the brunt of that, and so you want to award them as much protection as you can possibly afford them,” said Greer.

However, protection isn’t cheap.

“The department’s already scratching for every dollar they can get, and unfortunately, the K9 officers are kind of at the end of the list a lot of times,” said Greer.

To find a solution for the budget problem, Greer applied for a grant to get Drogen vest from the K9 division of the organization Running 4 Heroes.

“Most of the vests that you can get for ballistic protection don’t fit very well for the dog which leads to more heat retention, so I wanted to try to find one that we could use on a daily basis,” said Greer. “We came across K9 Storm which, coincidentally, was used by the Navy SEAL Team on the bin Laden raid.”

On Saturday morning, Running 4 Heroes awarded Drogen with the vest at Lorena High School.

“It was a wonderful time for us as a department and for Drogen getting his equipment,” said Greer.

Following the presentation, Theresa Ann, 9, ran a symbolic mile around the track in honor of fallen K9s and to make sure Drogen doesn’t become one of them.

“I am appreciative that I get to help K9 Drogen stay safe with this K9 vest,” she said.

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