They stood at opposite ends of a room inside the Bradenton Police Department, restless, covered in fur and occasionally barking.
Two police dogs -- K-9 Mac and K-9 Riggs -- received K-9 Protective Ballistic Vests at a presentation Tuesday afternoon. The vests were purchased by the Retired Law Enforcement Association of Southwest Florida with money donated by Bradenton couple Leslie Hall and Henry Schneiderman.
Ray Hubbert, president of the association that has donated nearly 40 bullet and stab-resistant vests, spoke at the beginning of the presentation and introduced the police dogs, who were placed in their new vests.
"We started a program in 2009 to raise funds to buy ballistic vests for the canines in the area," he said. "We know that the local, state and county (agencies) don't have it in
their budget(s) to protect the dog(s) and we started the program because they do what they're told; they go into the danger areas and they have no fear."
Hubbert said he thinks it's necessary to protect the dogs.
Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski and other officers looked on as Hubbert acknowledged Hall and Schneiderman for their donations. With these latest donations, all three police dogs in the department have vests. K-9 Blitz received her vest last year from the association.
Schneiderman and his wife, both retired, said they have an affinity for dogs.
"There are things that the dogs can do that officers cannot and, when they work as a team, it's important that the K-9 be protected as well as the human officers," Schneiderman said.
Hall, who is involved in animal rescue, said it's an honor to help police dogs because they put their lives on the line every day.
"These dogs help catch really dangerous, nasty people," the 65-year-old said. "We're safer because of them."
Officer Jason Taulbee, who has been the assigned handler for K-9 Mac for almost a year, said he is "ecstatic" about the police dog's new equipment.
"That's one of the things we worry about ... You never know what kind of situation a dog's going into," he said.
An Oklahoma City police dog named Kye died of a heart attack Monday after being stabbed repeatedly by a suspect he was chasing the day prior. According to KOKO.com, the dog's handler shot and killed the suspect after trying to separate the two.
Taulbee said K-9 Mac helped catch a burglar about a month and a half ago and he's done several building searches.
"He was going in, looking for the guy and we ended up finding him. However, you don't know if the guy's armed or what his intentions are," Taulbee said.
K-9 Mac stood by his feet with his new vest. The side of the vest read "POLICE" in white. K-9 Riggs could be heard across the room, with his assigned handler, Bradenton police officer Matthew Palmer.
"You never know what he's up against," Taulbee said.
Hubbert said the association purchases the light-weight, custom-fit vests at retail cost, which is $1,500.
"We hope it'll protect them. That's the main thing," he said. "They go into tracking and apprehension of bad guys. ... They're the first ones into the scene."
Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.