HUNTINGTON – When it comes to the Huntington Police Department, protecting those that protect the community is always a top priority – whether those officers walk on two legs or four.
In an effort to better protect its four-legged officers, the HPD has partnered with a local business and nonprofit to raise $10,000 toward the purchase of four protective vests for the Huntington Police Department’s K-9 Unit.
“Our dogs are out there keeping us safe, and it’s our responsibility as handlers to keep our dogs safe,” said Lt. Levi Livingston, a K-9 trainer and handler for the past 16 years. “It’s a team effort.”
Livingston said the fundraiser, Cause for the Paws, is a joint effort with Tri-State Pool Distributors, a local wholesaler that provides pool supplies to retail stores in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia, and the Spikes K9 Fund.
The fundraiser will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 8, at Fat Patty’s, 1935 3rd Ave. in Huntington. Due to limited space, only those who have donated or plan to donate will be able to attend.
The event will include a silent auction, appetizers and cash bar. All proceeds, which are tax-deductible, will go toward purchasing lightweight, stab-resistant, bulletproof vests.
Those who cannot attend the fundraiser Friday but would still like to donate can mail donations (check payable to “Spike’s K9 Fund”) to Philip Macri, Tri-State Pool Distributors, at P.O. Box 6473, Huntington, WV 25772.
To prove just how vital the K-9 Unit is to the department, HPD held a media demonstration Tuesday morning at its headquarters.
As part of the demonstration, HPD K-9 handler Robert Black performed a training exercise with his canine companion, Max.
As part of the exercise, Black led Max into a side room and gave the command for him to find the hidden police officer, a task that took Max less than 10 seconds.
“We are utilizing our dogs a lot more to search buildings,” Livingston said. “They keep our officers safe, and they can do the job faster and safer than we can.”
In recent years, with the uptick in drug-related crime, Livingston said the department relies on its K-9 Unit more and more. He added that the dogs also work closely with the department’s SWAT team.
Livingston said the K-9 Unit consists of eight dogs, including six narcotic apprehension dogs, a bloodhound and an English Springer Spaniel used only for narcotics detection. Trained K-9s can cost as much as $10,000 or more.
Livingston said the only dogs that will need the vests are the narcotic apprehension dogs. He added that two already have vests and the fundraiser will hopefully provide funds for the remaining four.
Livingston said they would also like to purchase a camera to mount onto the dogs when they enter buildings, but that will cost another $7,000 to $8,000.