Conn. police dogs to get protection

Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
Copyright 2006 The Hartford Courant Company

ROCKY HILL, Conn. - Rocky and Ranger, the police department's dogs, will be outfitted with ballistic body armor.

The bulletproof vests were donated by Connecticut Vest-a-Dog, a nonprofit organization, and a Glastonbury couple, Stacey and Robert Doan.

Christina Poryanda, executive director of Connecticut Vest-a-Dog, said the organization has provided 20 dogs in police departments across the state with ballistic body armor since its founding in 2003. The organization's website posts photographs of the dogs sporting their vests.

Poryanda said the organization was founded to protect Connecticut's police dogs and is dedicated to raising awareness of the dangers they face. Its goal is to raise money to provide every Connecticut law enforcement dog with a protective vest.

Stacey Doan said she donated to Connecticut Vest-a Dog after researching the organization and learning that most police department's don't include the protective vests in their budgets.

"The dogs are really canine officers. They are officers as much as humans are," said Doan, the owner of three poodles.

Rocky and Ranger will be outfitted with their vests at 6:30 p.m. today at the police station, said Lt. Robert Catania. The vests are valued at more than $800 each and will protect the dogs against bullets and most punctures. They also minimize injuries from blunt trauma wounds.

"We are grateful for the efforts of Connecticut Vest-a-Dog and for the generosity of the Doan family in helping us protect the valuable canines that protect our officers and our community," Catania said.

Ranger, a Belgian Malinois, joined the department last year. Handled by Officer Joseph Phelps, Ranger is trained to sniff drugs and track people. He's been involved in numerous drug-related arrests.

Rocky, a Dutch shepherd, has been on the job since 2003 when the K-9 unit was reactivated. The unit had been inactive since the early 1990s. His handler is Officer Erik Gutsfeld.

Like Ranger, Rocky has assisted in drug arrests and has helped track suspects.

The department's canine program was founded and operates on funds donated by the community and through available grants. Local veterinarians and pet supply stores donate their services and supplies.

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