You’ll read this week about a local high schooler’s efforts to make sure George, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office’s German Shepherd, gets a ballistic vest to keep him safe on the job.
A feel good story, right? It sure is, but at the same time it deals with a serious issue.
Bethlehem High School Senior Rachel Piccolino has already met her goal of raising enough money to outfit George, and she’s well on her way to armoring two incoming dogs for the Sheriff’s Office. Any extra money raised will be spread to other area departments for the same purpose.
The fact the Sheriff’s Department is adding canines draws attention to the ever increasing role of four-legged officers. Indeed, in the decade since 9/11, demand for multipurpose dogs – who are trained to sniff out explosives, drugs and people – has skyrocketed. The more recent Boston Marathon bombing has renewed every police department’s desire to have access to such a valuable tool.
Locally, we get word of George being deployed all the time. Just this past week, the Sheriff’s Canine Unit hunted for a suspect in the woods outside Ravena.
So, it would seem that a police dog is sometimes just the right tool for the job. That’s why we’d love to see all police dogs outfitted with the tools to make sure they can do their jobs safely and effectively.
Zan Strumfeld reports this week that every doggy vest costs more than $1,000, making them comparable in cost to the armor that protects two-legged officers. The difference is municipal police forces get reimbursed for most or all of the cost of their human vests from the feds or the state. That’s a good thing, of course. Our police officers should have the best protection available all the time – all of them.