84ºF

Flagler County K-9s get bulletproof, cooling vests

Blue Knights International, Elks Lodge raise $8K for 4 vests

From left: K-9 Sgt. Jon Welker; Flagler County Veterans Services Officer David Lydon; Blue Knights Vice President George Zampella; K-9 Deputy Robert Tarczewski and K-9 Tag; Blue Knights President Bill Gallagher and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly.
From left: K-9 Sgt. Jon Welker; Flagler County Veterans Services Officer David Lydon; Blue Knights Vice President George Zampella; K-9 Deputy Robert Tarczewski and K-9 Tag; Blue Knights President Bill Gallagher and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly.

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Four K-9 deputies with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office will be safer and cooler as they perform their duties thanks to the local chapter of Blue Knights International.

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The group, whose vice president, George Zampella, is himself a retired K-9 officer, joined with the Palm Coast Elks Lodge to raise $8,000 to equip the Flagler County K-9s with bulletproof vests and cooling packs.

Sheriff Rick Staly thanked the Blue Knights for the safety vests at a presentation last Thursday.

“We want to protect our deputies and our four-legged ones too,” Staly said.

He pointed out that with training and equipment costs, the dogs cost about $18,000 each. The K-9s are trained in narcotics detection, bomb-sniffing, apprehension or missing person searches and are committed to their human partners, deputies said.

At least 28 K-9s were killed in 2016, including a Volusia County K-9 last November. This year, at least five have died in the line of duty.

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Through community donations and fundraisers, the groups raised the money to provide the vests and special cooling packs worn under the vests to keep the dogs cool when they are working in the Florida heat.

Each dog is being outfitted with six cooling packs, Zampella said, which can be worn 2,200 times.

The Sheriff's Office has five K-9 teams, but one dog was already outfitted with a ballistic bulletproof and stab-proof vest in 2015.

The FCSO K-9 teams include: Sgt. John Welker with partner Jax; Deputy Robert Tarczewski with K-9 Tag; Deputy Fred Gimbel with K-9 Marko; Deputy Brandon Fiveash with K-9 Kaos, and Deputy Jonathon Duenas in K-9 training.