Police raising funds to buy protective gear for K-9 units

Police raising funds to buy protective gear for K-9 units

Pawtucket Officer Gregory Malo with his patrol dog, Argo, a Czech shepherd, on left, and Officer James Leach with Magno, a Belgian Malinois patrol dog during a press conference in January announcing the launch of four new K-9 units. The Pawtucket Police Department is currently raising funds to purchase $18,000 worth of protective equipment for the dogs. (Breeze file photos by Charles Lawrence)

PAWTUCKET – The Pawtucket Police Department is hoping to raise $18,000 this spring to purchase protective equipment that will provide added safety for the dogs in its new K-9 units.

“We want to protect our partners that are canines and provide the same level of care and protection we would one of our human police officers,” Capt. David Holden, coordinator of the K-9 units, told The Breeze.

The list of items includes first aid trauma kits, Narcan kits, military grade cooling vests, Kevlar boots, oxygen mask kits, and vehicle K-9 monitoring and alert systems.

Holden said that some of the equipment will increase the dogs’ efficiency and their longevity during a search.

The K-9 units, which were launched in January and are the first for the department since 2013, consist of four teams:

• The patrol teams of Magno, a Belgian Malinois, and Officer James Leach, and Argo, a Czech shepherd, and Officer Gregory Malo;

• A tracking team of Officer William Figura and bloodhound Neko;

• And compassion dog Watson, a goldendoodle, and Det. Trevor Lefebvre.

The department has partnered with Project Paws Alive, a national nonprofit founded in 2012 providing protective K-9 equipment to underfunded law enforcement, fire, rescue and military K-9 units throughout the U.S.

While the equipment will improve the dogs’ capabilities, because it isn’t essential to the program, the costs aren’t included in the department’s budget, Holden said.

Karen Caprio, vice president and co-founder of Project Paws Alive, told The Breeze that the goal of the nonprofit is to provide these items to police departments without having any impact on taxpayers.

All equipment provided by Project Paws Alive is professionally made by licensed companies, meets all state and federal regulations, and is purchased directly from the manufacturer, according to its website.

The fundraiser will run until the department reaches its goal, but the hope is to wrap it up before the end of April so they can install the systems in the vehicles before the start of summer, Caprio said.

As of last Thursday, the department had raised $1,200, she said.

People can donate any amount or can pay for an item in whole. Donations are tax deductible.

The most expensive items are the vehicle systems, ranging from $2,300 to $3,600, which monitor, detect and protect the dogs, even when their handlers are away from the vehicles.

The units provide alerts about temperature, vehicle battery voltage, and engine stall. They also detect carbon, smoke, and fire and include a door-popper system, as well as live 24/7 system monitoring on smartphones so officers can check in on the dogs, Caprio said.

If a vehicle overheats, the system can open windows and turn on fans, all while alerting officers to the situation. Holden said the alert will be sent to the handlers’ phones and won’t turn off until they address the issue.

The department is also requesting three oxygen recovery mask kits, at $150 each; four pairs of Kevlar boots, at $150 each, to protect against hazardous materials such as sharp needles; and two first aid kits, at $350 each, which contain supplies needed to treat the canines for injuries from gunshot and knife wounds to snake bites, heat injury and toxic ingestion.

One “cool” piece, Holden said, are military grade cooling vests that keep the dogs’ body temperatures down “so they’re not overheating and can perform for a longer period of time.” The department is asking for three vests, at $250 each.

To protect the patrol canines against opioids, including fentanyl, the department requests two Narcan kits, at $160 each. The kits include two nasal spray doses, which will stop accidental overdoses if a canine comes in contact with an opioid.

The department has Narcan already but wants to have it for the dogs, too, Holden said. “Their sense of smell is so much stronger,” he said. “We want to protect them.”

Patrol dogs Magno and Argo, who are already trained for tracking and patrol, will receive six weeks of training at the end of April in narcotics detection, Holden said.

Neko won’t be used for narcotics, just tracking, he added.

To donate by check, mail to Project Paws Alive, 1193 SE Port Saint Lucie Blvd., Suite 289, Port Saint Lucie, FL 30017. Make all checks payable to Project Paws Alive and include “Pawtucket” in the memo line.

For more information or to donate online, visit projectpawsalive.org/pawtucket .

From left are Officer William Figura with Neko, a tracking bloodhound, Det. Trevor Lefebvre with Watson, a compassion/therapy goldendoodle, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Pawtucket Police Chief Tina Goncalves at a press conference in January announcing the launch of four new K-9 units.