HARLINGEN — Whether it’s in the city streets or on the highway, K9 officers are always ready to give a helping hand to their department and keep the community safe.

As their role involves heroic acts, it also comes hand in hand with potential danger, which is why there’s a need for extra protection.

This week, the Harlingen Police Department announced that its four K9 officers will receive donated body armor.

K9 officers Katniss, Azlan, Ranger and Modry will receive bullet and stab protective vests thanks to a charitable donation from nonprofit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.

The potentially lifesaving body armor for K9 officers is made custom fitted. Each vest has a value of $1,744 to $2,283 and weighs an average of four to five pounds.

Harlingen Police Department Sgt. Larry Moore said Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. provided a great opportunity for the department.

“When the opportunity came up to put in for this grant, I jumped at it,” he said. “All four of our dogs were accepted. It’s wonderful. We’re so excited for them.”

According to Moore, the department has had K9s on the team for multiple years.

The department recently received three additional K9 officers.

“We had one for quite a while and we were able to purchase three more,” Moore said. “Our new K9s, along with our new handlers, went to a five-week academy so they’ve been on the streets for probably six to eight weeks now.”

The department’s K9 officers assist in narcotic interdiction.

“They work the highways, northbound and southbound traffic,” Moore said. “We’ve assisted DPS, DEA and the U.S. Marshals.”

The K9 officers also assist with tracking people.

Moore said an example of when the K9s are needed for tracking is when someone flees the scene of a fatal car crash.

“They’re amazing. These guys are hard working and love what they do,” Moore said. “They get out there and work hard. We expect big things from them in the future.”

Moore said it’s important to be able to protect K9 officers just as well as human officers because you never know if the people the K9s are tracking are armed with a knife or gun.

“Our human officers wear Kevlar every day so we treat these dogs as our officers as well,” he added.

Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. was established in 2009. Since it was founded, it has provided more than 4,450 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible by both private and corporate donations.

Katniss’ vest is sponsored by Martha Burgess of the Robert L. Burgess Memorial Fund and will be embroidered with the sentiment “In memory of CSP Sergeant Bob Burgess 197.”

Azlan and Ranger’s vests are sponsored by the National Police Association and will be embroidered with the sentiment “Gifted by NationalPolice.org”.

Modry’s vest will be embroidered with the sentiment “In memory of Glenn Sommers”.

The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old, actively employed and are certified with law enforcement or related agencies. K9s with expired vests are also eligible to participate.

For more information or to make a donation to Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., visit www.vik9s.org or call 508-824-6978.