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German shepherd awaits ballistic vest in Federal Way

Federal Way K-9 officer Matt Novak and Fax. - Courtesy of bulletproofdog.org
Federal Way K-9 officer Matt Novak and Fax.
— image credit: Courtesy of bulletproofdog.org

Fax could soon be fitted for a heavy-duty doggie vest.

The German shepherd is part of Federal Way's police force and is a generalist K-9. He locates fleeing criminals regularly. Unlike his human partner, K-9 officer Matt Novak, he has no equipment to protect him from bullets or knife wounds.

Crestwood Animal Hospital and veterinarian technician Jennifer Ives are conducting a fundraiser to buy Fax a custom-fitted ballistic vest.

K-9 teams respond to armed robberies, burglaries and other calls involving weapons and fleeing suspects. They are 16 times more likely to be involved in a shooting incident, according to Fax's donation Web site, http://bulletproofdog.org.

In 2007, Federal Way's K-9 generalist dogs were used 103 times on a typical call — specifically called for 17 times, requested by other agencies 17 times. Dogs also performed 31 captures and found evidence 22 times, K-9 officer Scott Orta said during an October 2008 Police Academy class.

"They are more in the line of fire, so to speak," Novak said.

The need for protection

Ballistic vests for dogs must be custom made. Fax's piece will be made by K9 Storm Incorporated and is expected to cost $2,500, Novak said. It will keep the dog safe from knife wounds and lessen the impact of most bullets, he said.

Fax has not been threatened or seriously harmed by a criminal yet, Novak said. However, an Auburn K-9 brushed death in July 2003, when a man with a suspended driver's license fled a traffic stop and shot at the police dog, Blitz, as the dog pursued him. Blitz was wearing a ballistic vest and was not harmed.

Fax, a 2-year-old, has worked with the police department for a little more than a year, but could not receive a vest until he was done growing. The animal hospital sees Fax and the department's two other K-9 dogs when they are injured or due for a check-up. The hospital is familiar with the dogs and their handlers.

"We're proud to serve these dogs in any way we can, and we want to keep them safe and healthy," Ives said.

After going on a ride-along with Novak, Ives saw the duo in action. She realized the need to protect Fax.

"I was so impressed with Matt and Fax and what these guys do," she said.

In the past, the animal hospital conducted a fundraiser to buy the department's other generalist K-9, Roscoe, a ballistic vest. Fax's fundraiser has been overwhelmingly successful, Ives said. Donations are being accepted at 17 local businesses. A can was set out at Crestwood on Jan. 8 and at other businesses Jan. 20. Since that time, about $850 has been collected, Ives said.

"I've been so blown away by the community and how generous people have been," she said.

Check it out

To learn more, visit http://bulletproofdog.org or call Crestwood Animal Hospital at (253) 839-4744. To make a donation visit or send donations to Crestwood Animal Hospital, 28822 Pacific Highway S. in Federal Way. Visit www.federalwaymirror.com for a complete list of businesses participating in the fundraiser.

Donate today

Donations for a ballistic K-9 vest are being accepted at the following businesses:

• Crestwood Animal Hospital: 28822 Pacific Highway S.

• Jump Start Espresso: 29005 Military Road S.

• New Lumber & Hardware Co.: 30854 Pacific Highway S.

• Twin Lakes Veterinary Hospital: 1060 SW 320th St

• Pet Country: 26120 Pacific Highway S., Kent

• Splish Splash Doggy Bath: 606 SW Dash Point Road #B

• Paws & Claws Pet Salon: 24823 Pacific Highway S. #105, Kent

• Cascade Veterinary Hospital: 804 S. 324th Place

• A Small Animal Hospital: 1115 S. 347th Place

• Marlene's Market and Deli: 2565 S. Gateway Center Place

• Sacajawea Healthcare for Pets: 1530 S. Dash Point Road

• All Martial Arts Supplies: 29225 Pacific Highway S.

• The Wine Basket: 2118 S. 314th St.

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