The first stab-proof vest for Tauranga police dogs has been issued and police have wasted no time in putting it to use.
Tauranga police dog Asta is the first to receive her 'Mako harness' and demonstrated its functionality in specialist training with the Armed Offender Squad yesterday.
Officer in charge of the Coastal Bay of Plenty Dog Section Sergeant Logan Marsh said the vests recognised the important role police dogs played when fighting crime.
''The dogs are the boys' best mates. They are the difference sometimes between them (officers) getting home safely at night or not. Anything we can do to help protect them is a good thing,'' Mr Marsh said.
The vest is fitted with layered polymer panels to shield the vital organs from stabbing and slashing. Its overall design is made from milspec nylon and trelleborg material, which does not absorb moisture, also gives the dog protection from blows and kicks.
Asta is among 10 dogs throughout New Zealand to be the first, following trials, to wear the vest. Another nine vests will be distributed to each police dog throughout the coastal Bay area over the next three months.
Mr Marsh said each vest had handles and reflective panels which would be incredibly helpful on jobs. The sometimes cumbersome stab proof material could also be removed from the vests if required.
''They are versatile and usable which is great for the normal patrol dogs but it's especially good for speciality AOS dogs as well. The majority of the work they do is quite physical. They are going over fences, through bushes and over rivers and that sort of stuff,'' Mr Marsh said.
''It's a great tool for us.''
The vests offer dogs the same protection an officer has.
Mr Marsh said the bond between handler and their dog was ''incredible'', so it was great dogs had protective gear as well.
They are the difference sometimes between them (officers) getting home safely at night or not.
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''They spend every day with them. They live with the families, come to work every day, they trust each other completely.''
The vests are being rolled out nationally following trials in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Wellington Dog Section head Senior Sergeant Mark Davidson, said it was a milestone for the dog section in terms of staff and dog safety.
"We've been really aware over the years that our dogs had only speed and mobility for protection, but with this new harness we've given them another level of protection alongside that," Mr Davidson said.
The harnesses have been designed by Hamilton-based specialist Sabre Tactical NZ and are being manufactured in New Zealand.
A total of 120 vests will be distributed throughout the country.
New Zealand Police dogs
- Police dogs respond to more than 30,000 incidents each year. All police dog handlers are officers with about five years policing experience behind them before they join the Dog Unit.
- All patrol dogs are German Shepherds and are supplied by the police dog breeding programme that is based at the Dog Training Centre near Wellington.
- Patrol dogs are mainly used to track and search for people. Many of them are also trained for: search and rescue work; victim recovery; deployment with the Armed Offender Squad; narcotic detection work.
- Detector dogs include a variety of breeds including German Shepherds, Labradors, Springer Spaniels and cross breeds. Detector dog teams are trained to detect narcotics, firearms, currency and explosives.