Thanks to a $3,000 donation from a local resident, the Williamsburg Police Department’s K-9 dogs now have the same bullet and knife protection as their human partners.
“I just kind of feel like that the animals don’t get enough credit. I am an animal activist. I think we should have the same protection for them as we do for our officers, and our officers feel the same way. They just weren’t able to purchase it,” said the donor, who asked to remain anonymous. “It is just something that I wanted to do, which has been near and dear to my heart.”
Williamsburg Police Chief Wayne Bird, who is a K-9 handler, said the vests are something that his department would have liked to have purchased previously, but it just didn’t have the money available to buy the K-9 vests.
“These K-9s require a lot of equipment and some of that equipment is very high
end, expensive equipment. After the long hunt for the murder suspect here in the hot weather and seeing how those dogs work in the heat and the dangers those dogs go through, the donor wanted to purchase equipment, very expensive equipment,” Bird said.
“This is equipment that an agency our size just doesn’t have the budget for. We are thankful that we have somebody in the community, who cares enough for animals to donate that equipment. We are very thankful to get that equipment.”
He added that police dogs have a very dangerous job, and if you look on law enforcement memorial pages, you see pictures of fallen police K-9s on a daily
“These dogs get shot in the line of duty. They get stabbed in the line of duty. They get hit by vehicles. They die from heat exhaustion. It is a big deal,” Bird said.
With the donated money, Williamsburg police were able to purchase other equipment for their K-9s in addition to the bullet and knife protective vests.
Cooling vests were also bought for the K-9s, which include cold packs that can be put in the freezer and then inserted into the cooling vests to keep the dogs, which
already have a thick layer of fur, from getting too hot in the summer time.
First-aid kits were also purchased with things to treat the K-9 if the dogs get cuts to their paws from walking on broken glass in an abandoned building, which is something the dogs did recently, or snake bites in the woods, or
Williamsburg police showed off the new equipment during a presentation Thursday morning in the city council meeting room at city hall.
The department currently has two Belgian Malinois K-9 dogs, Vicko, whose human
partner is Officer Elijah Hunter, and Nitro, whose human partner is Lt. Jim Pool.
Vicko is about seven-years-old, and Nitro is about two-and-a-half years old.
The handlers keep the dogs at their homes.
The Belgian Malinois have a life span for about 10-12 years, and a working life span of about 8-10 years.
When the dogs are retired from duty, they go to live out the rest of their days with their K-9 handlers in a life of relative luxury.
While Vicko and Nitro are trained to search for drugs, track suspects and
apprehend suspects, if necessary, they aren’t people friendly as such.
Bird unveiled the department’s newest K-9, Riker, who is 18-weeks-old, during the K-9 demonstration Thursday.
“He is a little different than the patrol dogs. He is more of a lovable, friendly dog. You could socialize him where you can’t socialize the other dogs as much. Around
family, the other dogs are great. The handlers kids are right their feeding them,” Bird said.
Riker, who is a procelaine hound, is currently in training to serve as a
search dog for missing persons, and also as a cadaver dog, which is trained to search for human remains.
“It is a huge need for us. I have had several cases recently where we have needed a cadaver dog, or we need a dog to track a lost or missing person. We have to call a team from Lexington, Knoxville, as far away as Nashville,” Bird said.
“We appreciate those teams and they have good dogs, but the problem is time. I want a dog here at our disposal so if we have that happen in Whitley County, we can respond quickly. When you have a missing child or an elderly person with a Golden Alert time, is crucial. If you have a dog here that is trained to do that, you can hit the ground running. That time makes a lot of difference.”
Riker was purchased in April with half the funds coming from the Williamsburg Police Department, and half provided by Whitley County Jailer Brian Lawson.
“Brian and I have had conversations about a tracking dog many times. From time to time the jail has escapees, which is where the hound really comes in,” Bird said. “The hound is an excellent tracker, and the hound can track very old trails where the patrol dogs are just not suited to do that.”
Bird added that it will be a little while before Riker is ready to hit the streets. The hounds have a working life of about 12-13 years.
While Riker isn’t trained to bite suspects or anyone else, based upon observations Thursday, it does appear that he might be willing to try and lick someone to death.