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Stark County K-9 receives new body armor donation

Stark County Sheriff's Office K-9 Jerry Lee will be sporting a new protective vest, compliments of a nonprofit organization.

Jerry Lee
Stark County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Klatt and his K-9 partner, Jerry Lee.
Contributed / Stark County Sheriff's Office

DICKINSON — One four-legged deputy with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office now has some better protection while on duty. On Tuesday, the department announced it received a donation of an American made, custom-fitted K-9 body armor vest from the nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.

This particular vest was sponsored by a generous Tampa, Florida, resident named Andrea Holder and has an embroidery “In memory of Hawk Holder.”

“Fortunately, at this point, we haven’t had any of our dogs injured. But it’s all depending on the incident you respond to. There’s always that potential. So much like our human deputies, we like to make sure our K-9 deputies are fitted with and have the best equipment available,” Lt. Eldon Meher said, adding that the department’s K-9s depend on the benevolence of citizens. “Our K-9 program is funded almost strictly by donations and fundraisers that we do.”

Meher praised Deputy Dave Klatt, Jerry Lee’s handler, for securing the pooch’s protective gear.

“I have to credit Deputy Klatt for this award. He did the legwork and applied for the vest for his dog,” he said.

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During a Stark County Commission meeting on April 5, Commissioner Ken Zander raised concern about the K-9 Unit after hearing rumors that one of the dogs, which happened to be Jerry Lee, became overly aggressive during a public relations event.

Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee explained what happened.

“When we were doing a demonstration for the ambulance shop, I was bit in the butt — yes,” Lee said. “But that was my fault for over-stimulating the dog. Everyone seemed to love it.”

Lee also addressed the incident in a Facebook video the following day, and said "Jerry is a very good boy." Jerry is one of three K-9s employed by the department for narcotics detection and apprehension assistance.

According to Meher, about 30,000 police K-9s are currently being used across the country. The Hettinger County Sheriff's Office is now trying to get one of its own, but funding remains uncertain.

Vested Interest in K9s was founded in 2009 with a mission to cover America’s bravest animals with life saving body armor. In the past 13 years, they’ve provided more than 4,500 vests to police departments in all 50 states. This program is open to American law enforcement related entities with a dog at least 20 months in age that is certified and actively employed.

The nonprofit accepts tax-deductible donations of all amounts. The cost to sponsor one vest is $960. Each vest is worth about $2,000, weighs more than 4 pounds and comes with a five-year warranty.

To learn more about this and potential volunteer opportunities, visit vik9s.org or call 508-824-6978.

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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