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A dogged three-year fundraising campaign by a high school criminal justice class will add a new layer of protection for three canine officers in Galax and Carroll County.
The fundraiser began a couple years ago after J.B. Gardner, the school resource officer for Carroll County High, spied an American Profile article on Feb. 15, 2009.
“In 2002, [a woman named] Susie Jean was watching a television newscast at her home in Douglasville, Ga., when she saw a horrific scene: a fleeing criminal fatally shooting a police dog,” the article noted
“I had to do something,” Jean was quoted as saying. At the time, she had been grieving over the recent loss of her two beloved German shepherds.
The article went on to tell the story of Jean working to get bullet proof vests for canine members of law enforcement agencies.
Gardner, who then taught a criminal justice class, shared the idea with his students.
The youths ran with the idea after that, selling donuts and holding other fundraisers, like serving a potato bar.
The Kevlar vests that provide protection from gun shots and knife wounds can cost about $700 a piece.
“It took about three years to get enough money for them...” Gardner noted. “That’s a lot of donuts.”
He’s glad the students were receptive to this idea of improving officer safety.
“It’s absolutely important that the dogs have bullet proof vest,” Gardner said. “They’re considered police officers and it’s only fair that they have the same protections of the police officer.”
Galax Police Officer Jacob Vaughan, whose partner Dundja received one of the vests, agreed. “These vests are a great safety feature because these canines are used in high-risk situations quite often.”
Carroll Deputy Cody Edwards gave a special thanks to the criminal justice class for giving the dogs the same opportunity to stay safe as the officers have.
“It gives them a chance to come home every day,” he said.