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I first read about Vested Interest In K9s a few years ago, and I was amazed at how much Sandy Marcal had accomplished in the name of keeping four legged officers safe. Over the months, I’ve posted many pawsitive (see what I did there?!) stories about events VIK9s was holding, and I wondered how many hundreds of people she had helping her in her huge organization.
I mean, come on. How much can ONE WOMAN do?!
I thought, “doggone it,” (ok I’ll stop but I didn’t even get to use ‘furrrocious’!) “I’m going to ask her,” and I quickly discovered that when you put a great idea together with a big heart, one person can indeed accomplish great things.
How did you get started working with the K9′s?
I saw a movie on Animal Planet called “RAIN” about a Vietnam war dog about 13 years ago. As an animal lover it piqued my curiosity about the working dogs. I learned that in most cases the law enforcement agencies budgets don’t stretch far enough to cover protective equipment or in some cases the K9 programs .
Is VIK9s something you started all on your own?
Yes, I began the nonprofit corporation and we have three board members (including me)
Why did you want to help them?
I have been an animal lover all my life and the working dogs put their lives on the line for their communities and partners. It just made sense to me that they have the same level of protection as their human partner.
How can others help you in your efforts?
We work with businesses who may wish to host an event and individuals in the community by offering them fundraising suggestions. Our website has a page called “HOW TO HELP”.
old. One 12 year old girl has already raised funds to outfit three police dogs with vests and is working on her fourth.
A 7 year old girl and her family held a memorial day event which took in over $1400 in an afternoon.
Our volunteers are the foundation of our organization. They help spread the word and assist at fund raising events, social media networking, flyer distribution, grant writing, making phone calls. We are always seeking additional volunteers to help join our efforts.
What is your biggest challenge with this type of work?
This type of work is very fast paced. I think the biggest challenge is finding volunteers who feel comfortable setting up and running events. I find more people are happy to donate their time to volunteer at an event .
What kind of fundraisers does VIK9s hold, and is it only K9′s within a certain area that you are able to help or do you work with police agencies all over the country?
Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. holds events at local venues, online events and with the help of fundraising partners (ie, Avon Products, Verizon Fios, Gold n Silver, Silpada Jewelry). Our efforts began in Massachusetts, our home state, and we expanded about 6 months ago to assist K9s throughout the United States. Most recently we provided vests for police dogs in Honolulu, Hawaii. We still focus on our home state initially and assist other states as the funds allow.
How do you decide which dog will receive a vest? Do you approach the police agency or do the officers approach you?
We maintain a waiting list. For general donations, we will vest the dogs in order of our waiting list. If a donor is generous enough to cover the cost of a vest which is $1006, we will give them an opportunity to select which K9 they would like to donate it to. Through networking we learn of the agencies who are in need of vests.
In this tight economy, do you find that people are still willing to help out the four legged officers?
We have been fortunate,even in these tough times, people have been generous. In 2011, we were able to provide vests for 64 working dogs throughout the United States.
One question I’ve ALWAYS had about this situation: why do PD’s invest so much time and effort and education into their K9′s yet don’t go that step further and buy a $800-$900 vest? With the thousands they’ve already invested, it seems like such a small price to pay to protect their officer.
What people may not realize is that the departments may not be in a position to fund the K9 program and the officer who will obtain the police dog is actually fundraising through a K9 fund for the cost of the dog and to outfit the cruiser with a cage system and hot-n-pop alarm system, veterinary care and food.
I noticed on your Facebook page that you were encouraging people to vote for K9 Gomo in the Hero Dog awards. Tell us a little about that.
I nominated K9 Gomo for the 2012 American Humane Society Hero Dog Awards and we need your votes to get to the finals. Officer Darvin Anderson, Gomo’s partner will attend the
awards ceremony in October and accept on behalf of Gomo who passed away the end of this year. Every VOTE counts. There are 15 other law enforcement dogs nominated who are ALL HERO’s. K9 Gomo is Vested Interest in K9′s special hero. K9 Gomo and Officer Darvin Anderson participated in a public service announcement for Vested Interest in K9s as well as appearing at many of the organizations events.
K9 Gomo (AND Officer Anderson!) was obviously a well loved dog as you can see by this gift to Officer Anderson
Thanks for your time, Sandy, and last but not least, if the readers of this website would like to donate to the K9s cause through your organization, how can they do that?
Tax deductable donations may be sent to: Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. P.O. Box 9 East Taunton, MA 02718 or via the website: www.vik9s.org
Benefiting: Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.
She’s passionate about horses and dogs. Most recently, she experienced a day in the life of a hard working police dog. Back in 2010, 12-year-old Lily Aisenberg of Sudbury learned of a non-profit program that provided protective vests for police dogs in Massachusetts called Vested Interest in K9s and decided to join their efforts.
Lily contacted Sandy Marcal, president of Vested Interest in K9s, Inc, and asked how she could help. Through coin drives at local businesses and a fundraising day at Especially for Pets in Wayland and Sudbury, Lily successfully raised $735 to donate towards a vest for K9 Charon of the Wilbraham Police Department.
Umass Police K9 Diezel puts his life on the line every day he’s on duty.
“Suspects that might possibly be armed with guns for knives, we also do building searches for home invasions or any other kind of burglary or robberies so they could encounter a suspect that does have a weapon,” says Diezel’s partner, K9 Officer Liana Varosky.
And many times Diezel and his k9 colleagues are the first ones into a dangerous situation and many times lack the protection they need to be safe.
“They are pretty vulnerable without the vest, they could be susceptible to any type of injury. The vest will not prevent injury completely but it gives them a better chance to avoid it, Varosky said.
Today, Diezel and four other police K9′s from other Western Massachusetts departments were outfitted with custom bullet proof vests at UMass.
For two years, Officer Dave Leo of the Chelmsford Police Department has worked with Axel, one of the toughest cops on the force. Axel, who has unnerving golden eyes and coal-black fur, is the only police officer in Chelmsford with four legs and one of the few without a bulletproof vest.
On Sunday, Sept. 19, the group Vested Interest in K9s will hold an event called “Dog Day Afternoon” at the Felos Art Center in Stoughton to raise money to buy a vest for Axel. Six Massachusetts K9 teams, including Leo and Axel, will give demonstrations and a watercolor painting of the six dogs will be unveiled and offered for silent auction.
The artist, Elaine Ostrander, is an animal lover who has frequently painted canines. Sandy Marcal, president of Vested Interest in K9s, said the artistic element makes this fundraiser unique in the history of the organization.
Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Sandy Marcal has been available to help man’s best friend…K-9 friend. For the past eight years, she has volunteered organizing events and raised more than $50,000 to provide bullet protective vests for law enforcement K-9s in Massachusetts. In 2009, Marcal decided to pursue her dream and organized Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc., a non-profit whose mission it is to provide vests for police dogs in Massachusetts. New K-9s graduating from the Massachusetts Police Academy as well as K-9s with expired vests will have an opportunity to be placed on Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. wait list.
Marcal has had the opportunity to work with local police departments, Mass. State Police, Mass. Dept. of Corrections, MBTA (Mass. Bay Transportation Authority), Mass. Department of Mental Retardation and USAF-Hanscom Air Force Base to secure protective vests for the dogs. She often attends K-9 training sessions, meets with the handlers, and organizes meetings between potential vest sponsors and K-9 teams.
“I have had the honor to meet many police dogs and their dedicated handlers and seen many of these K-9 teams demonstrate their talents of apprehension, obedience, narcotics firearms and bomb detection,” Marcal commented.
“It is unfortunate that local and state budgets do not have funding for bullet/stab protective vests, and that’s where we step in to assist. Each vest presently costs $725 and the waiting list changes often,” Marcal said.
Marcal’s website displays pastel artwork of law enforcement K-9s that was donated by local artist Russ Wilkinson of Wilkinson portraits (www.wilkinsonportraits.com). “His work is amazing and completely captures the personality of the dogs and the handlers,” Marcal said.
Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. is run by Marcal with the assistance of fellow animal lovers, Attorney Robert H. Fennessy Jr. and Sarah Glaser, both of whom are charter members of the Board of Directors.
Attorney Fennessy has a solo law practice in Walpole, MA that concentrates in Animal Law, Municipal Law, Employment Law and Family Law. He previously served as captain of the Law Enforcement Department of the MSPCA. Fennessy teaches an Animal Law and Rights course at Southern New England School of Law, where he’s an adjunct professor of law and he teaches a civil liability course for ACOAM (Animal Control Officers Association of Mass.). Having dedicated his career to animal welfare, Fennessy was invited to speak and present at the 2007 and 2008 National Animal Law Conference in Portland Oregon and the 2009 International Animal Law Conference.
Sarah Glaser has been an editor for GateHouse Media, Inc. for three years, following two years as copy chief for MPG Newspapers. Before working as an editor she attended college in North Carolina majoring in communications. As an editor, she oversaw reports about the K-9 program as it impacted the town of Kingston. Ms.Glaser has grown up around police dogs and always found their work interesting. Being
a life-long animal lover, she volunteers her time with various animal rescue organizations. Her household consists of four rescue cats. She became acquainted with Marcal during a fundraiser where the Kingston Police Departments K-9, Olyver was featured.
Marcal has plans for a motorcycle ride and Helping Paws for the Holidays Pet Santa Photos in 2010 to benefit the cause. Anyone wishing to volunteer may reach Marcal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations may be sent directly to Vested Interest in K-9s, Inc. P.O. Box 9 East Taunton, MA 02718 or online at www.vik9s.org. For more information, please call 508-824-6978.