Police work is dangerous and difficult, for the canine officers as well as the humans who put their lives at risk every day to protect their communities, according to Havre de Grace Police Chief Teresa Walter.
“They need protection as much as their human colleagues,” said Walter, who noted 18 police dogs have died in the line of duty in the U.S. so far in 2018.
The Havre de Grace Police Department’s K-9 unit, Ikar, now has an extra layer of protection in the field, thanks to Protect the Paws: A K-9 Cause. The Miami, Fla.-based organization raises money to purchase ballistic vests for police K-9 units around the country.
The police department and the Mayor and City Council honored city residents Colleen and Tom Stein during the June 18 council meeting for their work with Protect the Paws to raise money to purchase a protective vest, as well as a canine oxygen mask, and donate it to the Havre de Grace Police.
“We are honored to be the recipients, and we do truly appreciate your act of kindness and generosity,” Walter said.
The vest for Ikar is one of 14 the couple is donating to police departments in Maryland, Tom Stein said.
The Steins celebrated their donation of a vest and mask for Blitz, a K-9 unit with the Bel Air Police Department, with the dog and police officials earlier this month. The news was posted on the BAPD and Protect the Paws Facebook pages.
“It’s always been close to us,” Tom Stein, who has served in law enforcement, said of supporting the military and law enforcement.
Ikar, a 3-and-a-half year-old German shepherd, wore his green vest while his handler, Pfc. Jeremy Lathroum, held his leash at the council meeting.
Walter said the department has a second, older, K-9 unit, but officials thought the vest, “realistically,” would not be best suited for that dog. She said the Steins have assured her another vest will be provided once the department gets another K-9.
The Steins received honors from Walter and Mayor William T. Martin, as well as Councilman David Martin.
Councilman Martin, a retired Maryland State Police trooper, presented a challenge coin to the couple.
Lathroum said his canine partner is “very appreciative” of the vest, and he thanked the Steins “for both of us.”
“It will definitely serve him well,” Lathroum said. “Hopefully, he’s never in a situation where it has to protect him, but it’s there if needed.”
The vest is manufactured by Point Blank Enterprises, and the cost ranges from $500 to $700, according to Havre de Grace Police Department spokesperson Cpl. Daniel Petz.