(Update: Adding video, comments from Deschutes County deputies)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County Sheriff's Office K-9s recently were outfitted for duty with some new, potentially life-saving gear. The K-9s now have Level IIIA ballistic-rated and stab-resistant vests. The new body armor will help keep them safe while serving the community.
It came from K-9 Storm and was purchased through the K-9 budget. K-9 Storm sells vests, collars and leashes.
Deputy Ryan McNee said Friday these new vests are thinner and lighter than the previous gear. He also said it's the lightest vest on the market that offers the highest level of protection. What sets these vests apart is that they are custom-made.
Sergeant Jayson Janes said, "Our dogs can wear these during the entire shift, and they're not going to get the raw spots or injuries or anything wearing the vest during the day."
The sheriff's office has five patrol dogs and a bloodhound, each with a human partner.
The plan is to outfit all the patrol dogs with the upgraded gear.
McNee said, "We send out dogs into situations where there's chance for injury just by the environment under crawl spaces and houses, construction sites with rebar and sharp objects poking out. This is just a myriad of things we ask these dogs to do, and they need protection ad well as we can protect them."
He said his K-9, Rico, handles the new gear well.
"He's able to do all the things he did with his very minimal harness before," McNee said.