Charity awards bullet-proof vests to local K-9s

Martin K-9 Loki and Deputy Corley.jpg
Martin County Sheriff's Deputy Collin Corley, with his new K-9 Loki.{ } A group called K-9 Strong on Thursday presented Loki and six other K-9's with new bullet-proof protective vests.{ } (WPEC)

Seven K-9 officers, who help keep the community safe, are themselves more secure, thanks to a local group’s efforts to fit them with bullet-proof vests.

“He’s a deputy just like I am, he works just like I do,” said Martin County Deputy Collin Corley about his new K-9 partner Loki, who specializes in drug detection.

On Thursday, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder introduced Loki and two other new members of his agency’s K-9 unit.

Each animal was presented with a protective bullet-proof vest reinforced with Kevlar, just like the dogs’ handlers wear.

“I have a vest to protect myself when I go into dangerous situations,” Corley said. “And me and him are expected to go into dangerous situations. So it’s only fair that he has a vest as well.”

A charity called K-9 Strong outfitted the three new K-9s with the vests and also presented vests to four other K-9s from the Stuart and Jupiter police departments.

K-9 Strong is a group of three friends, two of them veterinary professionals. They say they were spurred into action by the fatal shooting of Palm Beach County Sheriff’s K-9 Cigo, during a takedown a year ago Christmas Eve in Wellington.

Jenna Radtke, who grew up in Wellington, wanted to help protect other K-9s.

So since Cigo’s death, she and her friends, Joe Rathnam and Lisa Cicio, have, with the public’s support, raised enough money to fit 15 local K-9’s with protective vests.

Each vest costs about $1,000.

“I think the people of Martin County will be happy to know that these dogs are better protected, so thank you all,” Sheriff Snyder said.

“I’ve been in K-9 for 15 years, so I know how important these vests are,” Jupiter Police Officer Scott Kimbark said. “You know, we put these dogs through some of the most dangerous situations.”

“We train a lot with them, with harnesses already, and different equipment,” Martin County Cpl. Ronnie Manganiello said. “So this is just really a heavier harness. So it’ll be pretty easy for them to get used to it.”

“It makes me speechless seeing the dogs just being protected,” Radtke said. “It’s a feeling that no one else can understand unless you get out and help them.”

“At the end of the day, you know, they’re protected, and that means a lot to all of us,” Cicio said.

Snyder pointed out K-9s serve a number of important roles in law enforcement, one of them being to help keep human officers and deputies safe.

Radtke, Rathnam, and Cicio, of K-9 Strong, say their charity will continue to raise money to help more Florida K-9’s and their handlers.