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For K-9 units, a vested interest

July 12, 2000

Sue Doyle

COSTA MESA -- Casey Donahue remembers when his family donated a German

shepherd named Thor to a police force in Iowa. But the fact that Thor was

shot to death by bank robbers just six months later is what really sticks

in his mind.

It happened 20 years ago, but the memory still bothers the Costa Mesa

man. Although he can't turn back the clock, the 26-year-old Donahue and

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his girlfriend, Jana Herbert, are trying to make life safer for the

city's police dogs.

On Tuesday, a pair of Costa Mesa police canines -- two Belgian

Malinois named Bart and Nero -- were each outfitted with bulletproof

vests.

The protective gear was made available through the efforts of Donahue

and Herbert, who spent a year raising $3,700 to purchase the vests for

K-9 units at local police stations.

They have provided two vests to the Huntington Beach Police Department

and will soon donate some to Fountain Valley police as well.

The pair got some help from Vest-A-Dog, a nonprofit group started when

11-year-old Stephanie Taylor of Vista, Calif., donated $120 to the cause.

The specialized ballistic vests, which cost about $650 apiece, are

intended to protect police dogs from gunshots and knives, but do not

interfere with their performance.

The dogs will wear the vests when searching for armed suspects and

during SWAT calls, said Costa Mesa Police Officer Paul Ellis.

"This makes me feel a lot more secure," Ellis said. "It's much more

safe for them."

The K-9 unit assists officers with narcotics, building and area

searches. But they won't wear the vests during day-to-day activities

because they will cause the dogs to overheat, Ellis said. However, the

vests are lightweight and do allow for air circulation.

Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden presented plaques to Herbert,

Donahue and Taylor for their contributions.

Herbert helped to raise money by putting up donation boxes at local

pet stores.

As an animal lover, she was pleased to see her goal become reality.

"If I had a house, I'd own nothing but cats and dogs," she said.

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