BELLEVILLE — Dogs in the K-9 unit of the St. Clair County Sheriff's department will soon be better suited for their frontline duties.
Trouw Nutrition, of Highland, will donate two K-9 Kevlar vests to the sheriff's department this week. The company is donating the vests as part of its annual campaign to give back to companion animals.
Lesley Gerard, a marketing specialist, said Trouw Nutrition chose to donate Kevlar vests this year because many K-9 units work only on donations.
Lt. Kurt Eversman of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department said a large part of their K-9 unit's funding is received from donations.
"A K-9 unit can be very expensive," Eversman said. "Any donations we get help."
The Kevlar vests, which cost $840 each, will help the K-9 animals as they carry out high-risk duties. Eversman said the K-9 unit is called on to perform a variety tasks, including assisting with disturbances at the St. Clair County Jail and aiding in fugitive searches and crowd control.
"Unruly people usually become quite compliant when the K-9s show up," Eversman said.
The K-9 unit was deployed 583 times in 2012 and were part of 413 arrests. The unit assisted other area agencies 183 times last year.
Deputy Justin Biggs, whose partner, Boss, will receive one of the Kevlar vests, appreciates Trouw Nutrition's generosity.
"These vests are a vital tool to help us protect our partner," Biggs said.
Boss and Casso, another K-9 dog who will receive a custom-fitted Kevlar vest, will need to adjust to wearing the new equipment, but they will not require special training, Biggs said. The department's other K-9 officer, Dax, already has a Kevlar vest.
Trouw Nutrition donated a total of 10 vests to agencies from Georgia to California. The company purchased the vests from Kevlar for K9s, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help protect America's working K-9s.