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Nogales Intl

Dogs get donated bulletproof vests

By Gigi Gutierrez

Nogales police officers, county sheriff's deputies, and other government agents often go out on potentially dangerous calls protected by bulletproof vests.

However, the canines that accompany them are seldom offered this security.

Thanks to 10-year-old Tucson resident Michael Valdez's organization, Protect Police K-9's, specially designed ballistic vests will now offer protection to four local government dogs.

Valdez donated the vests to local sheriff, police, and Union Pacific Railroad department dogs. He began the fundraising one and a half years ago, and has donated a total of 34 vests throughout the state, he said.

Sheriff Tony Estrada said that the dogs are "as much at risk as our officers," and that "there is definitely a need to protect them." He said, "We're very grateful for the donation."

At a retail cost of $650 per custom-made vest, Valdez has made the donation of these vests possible through intense fundraising efforts.

He has accepted donations from car dealerships, retail stores and individuals. Wal-Mart made a $1,000 donation, Valdez said.

In addition, he participates in K-9 demonstrations, after which donations are collected, and he sells t-shirts that say "Invest in a K-9" and "Protect a dog," for $10 each.

He was able to donate a total of 16 vests, out of 34, in cooperation with Shari Norton of the K-9 Connection.

Valdez said that while at school one day, he read an article about a girl in California who was conducting fundraisers to buy bullet-proof vests for K-9 law enforcement units.

It was then that he realized that many dogs in Arizona, who go out on dangerous calls on a daily basis, were not vested. He wanted to help.

Why did he decide to dedicate his energy to vesting dogs? "I like dogs," Valdez responded. He is the owner of a German shepherd mix named Sarge, of whom Valdez said, "I made him the family dog."

He said that he decided to offer his most recent donation to Santa Cruz County agencies because "it's closer to the border," and he felt that the dogs here might need more protection.

Last Saturday, Nogales police patrolmen Pio Ahumada, David Batt, and Bill Morell accepted vests for their dogs Hans and Benny, Sheriff's deputy Joe Pimienta accepted a vest for Iwan, and Union Pacific's Roy Gallardo accepted a vest for Erlo.

Valdez said that there are 247 K-9 patrol dogs in Arizona, not including those of the Arizona Department of Transportation, the Department of Corrections and the U.S. Border Patrol.

He added that ultimately, his goal is "to raise enough money to buy all the dogs in Arizona vests."

To contribute to Valdez's Protect Police K-9's, donations can be deposited directly into the organization's Bank One account, No. 0711 9055.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2001


Given the years of training and refresher training that many of these dogs go through, I'm surprised that more of them didn't get vests sooner.

-- Anonymous, November 25, 2001

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