Dog Lover’s Pet Project: K-9 Officer Bulletproof Vests

Valerie DeLisle with German Sheperd Mako (sporting a $900vest) and Appoquinimink High School student Brennen Wright at the Delaware State Police K-9 graduation, 2017. Wright worked with DeLisle on his senior project to raise funds for K-9 bulletproof vests. 

Three years ago, Valerie DeLisle was scrolling through Facebook when she discovered an article about a police dog who had recently died in the line of duty.

After doing some research, the longtime Delaware resident found that about ten K-9 Officer deaths each year are due to a shooting or stabbing in the line of duty and that most police departments don’t provide their K-9s with safety vests crucial to their protection. DeLisle then started a GoFundMe page, requesting the necessary $1400 to purchase a bulletproof vest for a single dog.

What started off as a simple, one-time fundraiser has since turned into a 501C3 charity known as the DeLisle K-9 Officer Safety Foundation, Inc. Since its founding in 2016, the organization has saved 25 K-9s from potential harm through providing these vests to police organizations throughout Delaware and a few as far as California. “We are concentrating on Delaware but fund vests across the country when requested,” she said.

“K-9 Ranger,” a Belgian Malinois, with Middletown Police Department. This vest costs $1,100.

“Departments usually don’t consider this a budget item, and they are such a valuable resource for the officer,” DeLisle said.

Donations have been provided to departments including the New Castle Police, Delaware Capitol Police, and Middletown Police. More recently, DeLisle’s organization has also donated to correctional facilities, like the Howard R. Young Correctional Institute and the Sussex Correctional Institute.

 

Each vest is unique to the dog and its roles, whether they deal with the apprehension of criminals or being sent into tight crawl spaces and corners. The police dogs are often put into situations that are deemed too dangerous for their human partners, DeLisle said.

This is a Belgian Malinois named K-9 Drax with Delaware State Police (DSP). He’s wearing a special vest requested by DSP with added spike protection which costs about $1,800.

 

With protective measures like these vests, “They would have much more confidence to send the dogs in a dangerous situation,” said Greg Shelton, a friend of DeLisle’s who loves German Shepherds and supports her mission.

Shelton has hosted many fundraisers and charitable events at his historic property, Poplar Hall, in Newark. All of these events have benefitted DeLisle’s charity. 

When DeLisle donated the first vest to the Wilmington police department, officers invited her to the training field, where police dog Greta, a Belgian Malinois, sported her new vest while racing through their training course. “We had the opportunity to meet many of the K-9 officers and K-9s, as well as the chief, and they presented me with an appreciation certificate,” DeLisle said, adding that she would never forget that special day.

 

DeLisle’s next step in K-9 protection is providing these departments with Narcan kits, which work as an opioid reversal agent. Accidentally inhaling large quantities of drugs while sniffing them out poses another high risk for police dogs, one that DeLisle hopes to mitigate with these supplies, she said.

K9 officer appreciation fundraiser on June 5th

This Wednesday, June 5th, the DeLisle Officer Safety Foundation is partnering with Grain H20 restaurant in Bear, located on Summit Harbor Lane. Anyone who brings in the attached flyer will have 20% of bill donated to the charity. 

Shelton’s own German Shepherd, Luna, died just last week. He and his wife Dawn hope to raise $1,400 themselves at the fundraiser.

Additionally, Grain will also be hosting a celebrity bartender event from 6-9 p.m., complete with some K-9 guests. They will also have a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction, with donations from area companies like Michael Gallagher Jewelers, the Philadelphia Phillies, Everence, Black Rifle Coffee, and more.

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About the Contributor

Ellie Watson

Ellie Watson

Ellie Watson is a sophomore at the University of Richmond, majoring in journalism. She writes for her school paper, The Collegian, in addition to being a coordinator for her school’s chapter of Camp Kesem.

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