$33 specialty license plate could help protect K9 officers

Deadline approaching for K9s United to reach minimum of 3,000 preordered plates

K9s United, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting law enforcement K9 units with equipment and training, is needing some help from Florida drivers. All you have to do is purchase a license plate.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville-based nonprofit is on a mission to protect K9 officers, and you can help support that mission on the road – literally.

Through fundraising efforts, K9s United provides police dogs and their handlers with lifesaving equipment and training. The charity is hoping to help even more by raising additional money with its specialty Florida license plate. But they must presell at least 3,000 by Oct. 15 in order for the state to put them in production, and so far, they’ve sold just under 1,000.

The plates feature K9 Drago, who is retired with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and K9 Ryker, who spent many years with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and passed away in 2020 from natural causes.

Twenty-five dollars from each plate will go directly to K9s United. They can be preordered through your local DMV for $33, or with an additional $1 processing fee, you can preorder directly through the K9s United website.

If the 3,000-plate goal isn’t met, you will get your money back or you can opt to apply the payment you made to another specialty plate.

Debbie Johnson founded K9s United shortly after St. Johns County’s K9 Baron was killed in the line of duty in 2014. She has since raised money to provide equipment like specialized protective K9 vests, vehicle heat alarms, and K9 emergency kits at no cost to law enforcement agencies. Johnson says law enforcement agencies don’t always have adequate funding to provide K9 units with the necessary resources they need and that’s where K9s United can help.

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There are a number of success stories with donated equipment, including K9 Kilo in St. Augustine Beach. In 2019, a donated heat sensor alerted K9 Kilo’s handler that the temperature in his police vehicle was rising. The handler was working inside the bank when he received an alert on his phone. He immediately went to Kilo, realized the AC wasn’t working properly and brought his K9 partner back inside the bank with him for the rest of the day.

The nonprofit also helps pay for life-saving training for first responders so they can provide K9s treatment in the field during a medical emergency. Recently, News4JAX was there when nearly 1,000 police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and EMTs from nearly a dozen agencies met in Jacksonville for that groundbreaking training.

Johnson says proceeds from the specialty license plates could potentially reach $75,000 annually, which would allow the organization to provide even more training and lifesaving equipment to police K9 units and first responders.