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State College Police Dog Outfitted with Safety Vest, Thanks to Community Groups

on January 06, 2012 6:22 PM

Chasing and tracking criminal suspects -- there's no completely safe way to do it, State College police Officer Kris Hopkins said.

But for Keno, the department's 6-year-old police dog, the process just got a lot safer.

Two community groups -- the Mount Nittany Dog Training Club and the Nita-Nee Kennel Club -- joined forces to buy a $2,100 ballistic vest for the German Shepherd. A military-esque green shade, the vest is resistant to gunfire and stabbing attempts. (A human ballistic vest, by contrast, costs about $500.)

It's also specially fitted for Keno, who handles a lot of criminal tracking and narcotics detection for State College and nearby police forces. Having arrived in late 2011, the vest now protects Keno just about every time he responds to a call.

"They gave us pretty much the best vest that's on the market," said Hopkins, who works closely with Keno. He lives with her, too.

About a year ago, Training Club President Melanie Eng said, she started the fundraising effort for the vest.

"We were having so many armed robberies in the area," she said, that she became concerned for the dog's safety. Keno often is a first responder who tries to chase down potentially violent suspects after a robbery or other crimes.

The Kennel Club soon joined the vest fundraising effort, as it has a regular interest in supporting local philanthropy, immediate past club President Steve Brightbill said.

"This was right down our alley," he said. " ... (Keno) is an excellent example of a working dog and certainly needed protection."

About 15,000 police dogs are in service in the U.S., Hopkins said. On average, she said, four to six are lost annually in stabbings and shootings.

Born in Germany, Keno joined the State College Police Department in 2008. He is the second dog in department history that's able to handle narcotics-related tracking.

His career thus far has included six successful pursuits that ended in the capture of suspects, Hopkins said.

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