Fundraisers held to support K-9 units

July 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
This climate of budget cuts makes it tough for cities to take care of their four-legged police officers. The Vallejo Police Department will pull three of its four K-9 unit dogs off the streets on Saturday, but a Bay Area group is raising money this weekend so other departments won't have to take drastic action.

The K-9 "Zeus" may look like a playful dog, but when he's at work he's all business, like when he recently hunted down a criminal hiding in a tiny space between two buildings.

"Luckily, we had Zeus. He was able to use his nose and he found him for us and started barking and tell us where the guy was and we were able to take him into custody," says K-9 handler Officer Marcell Patterson.

Zeus's colleague Max also tracks down bad guys for the Oakland Police Department, but the dogs go out on the streets unprotected. Their handlers would like to see them in bulletproof vests.

"We invest a lot of time, effort and money into the dogs and we want the dogs to stay with us as long as possible," says Patterson.

Bulletproof vests for K-9s are hardly in the budget right now at the Oakland Police Department, but at least they have K-9 officers. The El Cerrito Police Department has held fundraisers because they want a dog so badly and the Vallejo Police Department decided this week to cut three of its four K-9 units.

When San Leandro-based Pet Food Express heard about all of the cuts the company decided to hold a fundraiser. It was so successful, they created a non-profit -- The Police and Working Canine Foundation. They are holding another fundraiser this weekend.

"It's very sad to hear that any K-9 is cut because these units are actually more cost-effective than many other tools that we have," says Louise Tully with the Police and Working K-9 Foundation.

The money raised this weekend will go toward bulletproof vests, oxygen masks and other safety equipment for the dogs. More than a dozen Bay Area police departments have applied for a portion of the donated funds.

"The dogs are willing to go anywhere and all they ask for is love in return," says K-9 handler Officer Steven Szopinski.

They'll collect money at all Pet Food Express stores this weekend. Max and Zeus and other K-9 officers will be at the stores. They may be tough, but they also know how to turn on the charm.


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