February 27, 2000
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ Kavik and Edy, this community's two police dogs, will soon be sporting the latest fashion for canine crime fighters: bulletproof vests.
Belleville Humane Society volunteer Tracey Schneider started a fund-raising campaign in January to buy the vests, in an effort to make the dogs less vulnerable to gunfire.
Schneider expected to spend several months collecting the $900 needed to buy two vests. But donors dropped money into his 15 collection cans so quickly, he met his goal in a matter of weeks.
The can at the Belleville Animal Clinic alone brought in about $500 in donations from pet owners.
``These dogs protect us. They go out of their way to protect us, so we need to protect them, too,'' said Cheryl Yarber, clinic administrator and organizer of the fund-raising effort there.
Schneider says he expects to order the vests this week, and plans to continue the campaign to raise money for bulletproof vests for police dogs in other Metro East departments.
Kavik and Edy, both German shepherds from Czechoslovakia, will wear the vests in situations where gunfire is possible.
``They're heavy, they're cumbersome, they're restrictive and they're hot,'' said Patrol Officer Mike Seibel, who handles Kavik. ``But in some situations, they could save their lives.''
He said when dogs die in the line of duty, it usually is from a bullet wound.
Belleville's police dogs have suffered minor injuries and cuts, as well as kicks, punches and pulled ears from the suspects they catch.
Kavik and Edy cost $3,500, and Seibel said training them cost another $7,500. Businesses donate food and veterinary care; they also donated kennels and plumbing work when the dogs were new.
The department's first dog, Eich, retired after a suspect he was chasing threw a playground slide at him and injured his back.