Chattanooga police dogs get bulletproof vests

David Chadwick of Invest In K-9, left, holds the leash as Master Patrol Officer Sean O'Brien fastens a bullet-proof dog vest on Yubee, a police dog in training, on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Money for the vests came from donations to Invest In K-9, and the presentation was made at the RIVER Vet Emergency Clinic on Amnicola Highway, where many customers made donations to the fund.

A Walker County, Ga., deputy sheriff received a check for his K-9's bulletproof vest on the same day this year that his dog was killed in the line of duty. The dog was shot dead before the officer could buy the protective vest.

Robin Scott, founder of inVEST in K9, wants to make sure other police dogs are better protected.

Thanks to her efforts, all 10 dogs with the Chattanooga Police Department have bulletproof vests.

On Tuesday she gave a $985 vest to Yubee, a police dog still in training, so the dog would have the vest before it encounters danger. At least five more vests will be available for incoming police dogs.

Scott, who was raised by a police officer, has spearheaded efforts to provide bullet/knife-resistant vests for police dogs since 2013. She hopes to provide all law enforcement dogs in the state with vests.

She partnered with the Regional Institute for Veterinary Emergencies & Referrals (RIVER) clinic on Amnicola Highway to get the vests.

The clinic has raised money to help dogs fight cancer, but Director of Finance Tim Maddox said he wanted a local project where people could see the result of the clinic's contribution.

Then he heard about the Walker County dog who got shot. It was the first Walker County K-9 to die in the line of duty in the 15 years the department has had working dogs.

So Maddox focused on raising money for dog protective vests. About $2,000 came through online donations and sales of ornaments from its office Christmas tree.

"I don't do anything halfway," said Maddox.

A woman who saw the presentation Tuesday gave a check for $3,000, bringing the clinic's total contribution to $6,000.

Chattanooga Police Master Patrolman Sean O'Brien said he is grateful for the public's support for K-9 cops.

"I am humbled by the people willing to put the time and effort to provide us with these vests," said O'Brien, who is working with Yubee, a Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd mix.

He said the police department has no budget for K-9 bulletproof vests after paying the thousands of dollars it costs to train the dogs. Training takes about 10 to 12 weeks to train a dog for a single purpose and about twice as long for a dual purpose, O'Brien said.

Of the 10 Chattanooga Police Department K-9s four are trained as dual-purpose dogs. Three are single-purpose bomb dogs and three are single-purpose drug dogs, he said.

The dogs risk their lives for the sake of their human partners, O'Brien said.

That's plenty of reason to make sure they have the protection they need, Scott said.

"We're not stopping. We're going to cover all dogs that need to be covered [with bulletproof vests], even with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, because the dogs are just priceless."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.