Keeping K-9s safe on the job

By Brandi Bailey

September 24, 2013 Updated Sep 25, 2013 at 1:03 AM EDT

Town of Fenton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Law enforcement officers put themselves in the line of danger daily. Each one wears a bullet proof vest to help protect them during interactions with suspected criminals.

Although their four-legged counterparts are often the first to enter a dangerous situation, they don't always have access to the same level of protection as their handlers.

For Johnson City Police Officer Brian Berdine and his K-9 CJ, a new protective vest keeps them both safer on the job.

It's a bulletproof and stabproof vest from Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc.

Vested Interest is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization whose mission is to provide the protective vests to K-9s across the country.

Officer Berdine applied for the vest through a group fundraising campaign.

CJ is one of hundreds of dogs across the country to have the safety vest, making his body even more protected than his handlers.

"Ours don't have the stab-proof, or resistant spike level is what they call it. The dogs vests do have that," Berdine said.

Each vest is custom fit to each dog. That's unlike the current vests that dogs wear at the scene.

"They're just a general Velcro closure on them. They're two pieces, they're not exactly mobility wise as good as the new vests," Berdine said.

The new vests have more buckles, a handle that allows the handler to pick the dog us and a ring for a leash.

"If they're tracking through the woods or something like that, they could be going over trees and sticks that can hit them in the chest. This vest can protect them from these blunt injuries," Berdine said.

Because of the stronger material, the vests provides a better fit, which improves the dogs mobility.

"The dogs being the first in, we're going to send them on a dangerous suspect or someone who may have a weapon. A lot of these dogs that go in on this don't have this protection so to have it now is a good peace of mind." Berdine said.

Vested Interest in K-9s makes two types of vests to fit the dog's line of work.

Each vest costs nearly $1,000 and lasts five years.

Once the vest expires, handlers can send the vest back and a new one will be sent to replace it.