K-9's and cops form a dynamic duo on the front lines of fighting crime, but dogs don't always get the same protection that police officers do and a nationwide movement is hoping to change that.
Even for large police departments like those found in Minneapolis and St. Paul, bullet-proof vests for K-9s can cost up to $1,000 apiece, and most departments say that doesn't add up for their budgets; however, after an Internet campaign and generous donations, the Brooklyn Park Police Department can now say all three of their K-9s have been outfitted.
Officer Mike Ploumin and his partner, Ozzy, patrol the streets of Brooklyn Park every day.
"He is with me in some life-and-death situations," Ploumin explained. "So, I need to trust him as he needs to trust in me."
Ozzy is a 2-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, close to a German Shepard. He's already been on several dangerous missions, but he never goes out unless he's wearing a bullet-proof vest.
It may seem surprising that protective gear is viewed as a luxury that not every K-9 in the Twin Cities can afford to wear, especially since it protects the trained partner police rely on.
"The likelihood of him being saved after being stabbed or shot greatly increases," Ploumin explained.
Ozzy's vest was purchased thanks to a generous donation, but the reality is many financially-strapped departments simply can't afford them. That's why a Massachusetts-based company called Vested Interest in K-9s started a nationwide campaign to makes sure each police dog has a vest -- even collecting money through Groupons.
"They're out there facing the same danger as the officers," Joe Van Sloun, a donor, said. "In many cases, they're probably helping protect the lives of the officers."
That danger is what led Van Sloun to donate the entire amount for the vest Ozzy wears. Now, he's hoping others will chip in for K-9 vests as well.
Just last month, a K-9 with the St. Paul Police Department was stabbed to death during a routine call. In Roseville, a K-9 lost the use of his legs after being stabbed four times. Neither of them were wearing vests.
Ploumin told FOX 9 News it's mandatory for all police to wear bulletproof vests, and he hopes all K-9s will soon get the same protection.
"We don't' want to put police dogs in situations where they are harmed, but it is a reality of the job," he explained.
Anyone who would like to help a K-9 get a vest can visit Vested Interest in K-9s online.