Increase in protective vests for police dogs in Broome County

By Perry Russom

February 19, 2014 Updated Feb 19, 2014 at 11:19 AM EDT

Town of Fenton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) They're the unsung heroes in police departments and sheriff's offices across the country, but the safety of police K-9s is at risk.

Last month alone, four police dogs in the US were killed in the line of duty.

"Police officers are wearing our vests, the dogs should have vests as well," said Brian Berdine, K-9 officer at the Johnson City Police Department.

In just a matter of seconds, a police dog goes from the back of the car to hunting down a potentially dangerous suspect.

What started as an online campaign of $10 donations on Groupon by Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc., has resulted in almost all police dogs in the county with bullet and stab-proof protection.

"Without them, you're basically putting a dog in harms way doing the same job as a police officer," said Berdine.

When we first reported on this story in September, there was only one K-9 in the county that had a vest. Now, eight of the eleven dogs in the county have the protection through the online donations.

"There's been several tracks we've actually gone on through the woods where I've taken the vest off of him afterwards and you can see where sticks and things like that have actually impacted the vest, but it didn't hurt him one bit," said Berdine.

Binghamton Police Department's Rambo got his vest last week.

"The more scenarios we train with, the more it will become second nature," said Chris Bracco, captain in the Binghamton Police Department and Rambo's handler.

Tuesday night was Rambo's first night wearing the vest.

"It just eases a lot of stress off my mind," said Bracco.

All vests given out this month will be in memory of K-9 Rocco from the Pittsburgh Police Department.

Rocco was stabbed to death in the line of duty almost a month ago.

As for the other dogs in the county that still don't have their vests, Berdine said he hopes to see those dogs protected shortly.

Click here to donate $10 towards funding a K-9 vest