When it comes to law enforcement, Hattiesburg native Chris Cook has one motto: No one should serve unprotected.
Not even police dogs.
Cook, 30, a barber, has started a non-profit organization to raise money to buy bullet-proof vests for Pine Belt police departments’ K-9s.
When he learned that the Hattiesburg Police Department’s police dogs needed vests, Cook said he created Operation: Kover Our K-9s.
Cook said the idea for the organization stemmed after he attended a K-9 competition with a friend, who also is a Hattiesburg Police Department K-9 officer.
“I’m an animal lover anyway,” Cook said. “Just seeing his working relationship with his dog made me want to do something to help the dogs.”
Cook said his goal is to raise about $10,000 to buy vests for HPD and Lamar County Sheriff Department police dogs. The departments combine have about 13 police dogs.
Since his organization was started in February, Cook said he has raised about $1,500.
Vests for police dogs cost about $1,000 each, he added.
He is hoping to raise more money at an October benefit he’s hosting to support the dogs.
“We’re hoping by the end of October to be able to provide some things,” he said, adding that he also wants to provide other equipment for the departments.
Cook said funding also will be used to buy heat alert systems for officers’ patrol cars. He said the systems are programmed to alert K-9 officers when their cars become overheated inside.
Hattiesburg police spokesman Synarus Green said the department is thankful for Cook’s efforts. Green said Cook’s generosity will allow the department to take funding allocated for vests and use it for other K-9 related training.
“We’re always grateful when someone wants to give a contribution to the police department,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of events where we send our (K-9s) into high-risk situations – which is a good thing. When those opportunities do present themselves, having the equipment available to us – it’s very helpful.”
Lamar County K-9 Sgt. Brad Weathers also commended Cook for his efforts.
“I think it’s great,” Weathers said. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the community since we got our first dog.”
He said the vests will provide added support to the dogs, who are depended upon heavily.
“The vests are so expensive; they’re hard to come by,” he said.
“The K-9s offer so much support to the community, it’s nice to see the citizens wanting to take care of them. They’re certified just like the deputies and police officers.”