JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - One Jackson County four-legged friend is a little safer. The sheriff's department's newest K9, Iris, recently received a new bullet and stab protective vest.
Iris is going to need more than just her dark coat of fur if she ever ends up taking on a bullet.
"Iris is trained to do narcotics detection. That's her primary function, patrol functions, and then apprehension and tracking," said Deputy Chris Pitalo, Iris' handler.
Thanks to a generous donation from the nonprofit organization Vested Interest in K-9s Inc., the three year old Dutch Shepard has been outfitted with a new protective vest.
"This is a level three Kevlar ballistic armor. It's also stab resistant," said Pitalo.
Pitalo said he applied for the bullet and stab protective vest because the nonprofit offers the vests at no cost to law enforcement agencies. But, in order to get approved for it, he and Iris had to meet certain criteria.
"What is the mission of the handler? What do they do together? What is the dog trained in? They look at a few different things," Pitalo said.
The K9 armor protects her vital organs while covering her belly and chest area. It's also light weight enough for Iris to move freely, especially in the line of fire. Sheriff Mike Ezell is grateful for the new vest, and so is Pitalo.
"She's not only my partner, but more like my child," said Pitalo. "I would never want to willingly put her in harms way, but if the day comes where we both have to do that, I feel a little bit better having the tools to do it a little more safely."
The next time the crime-fighting duo faces danger, Pitalo can rest assured his four-legged partner has an added layer of protection.
The bullet and stab protective vest costs anywhere between $1,700 to $2,200. They are often too costly for most law enforcement agencies to purchase. That's why the Vested Interest in K-9s Inc. provides the vests free of charge to qualified candidates.