TORONTO – An anonymous corporate donor is offering to equip some canine members of Toronto’s police force with armoured vests designed to protect them from sharp weapons.
The Toronto Police Services Board is to consider the offer of 18 vests at its meeting on Thursday.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders says in a brief to the board that the donor came forward after Lonca, a canine with the force, was seriously injured last year by a suspect armed with a machete.
The force’s canine unit has been in existence since 1989 and currently has 22 officers and 33 dogs.
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Saunders says the donor has ordered the vests – designed to protect a dog’s major internal organs if attacked with a sharp or blunt object – from Line of Fire Defence Systems in Edmonton at a total cost of more than $22,000.
Saunders argues the police dogs are valued members of the service and fulfil an integral role in protecting Toronto’s citizens.
“It is only appropriate that we provide them with the necessary equipment to protect them from harm,” Saunders wrote in his brief to the police board. “This donation in kind would keep them safe as they conduct their daily duties.”
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Line of Fire spokesman Duncan Horner said the company began development of the vest after an Edmonton police dog named Quanto was fatally stabbed in a parking lot while helping to catch a fleeing suspect in 2013.
A major challenge was making the vest light enough to allow the dog to remain agile while still offering protection, Horner said.
“We’ve designed a harness that is very lightweight, it doesn’t restrict the dog’s agility at all and they can wear it for a full shift,” he said, noting it was designed because of what happened to Quanto.
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“He was stabbed seven times, only one of those wounds was fatal,” Horner said, adding that vets have said the dog would have survived if he was wearing an armoured harness.
Horner added that the RCMP, Edmonton police and police in Durham Region, east of Toronto, are among the forces that use the company’s vests.
The vests can be fitted with interchangeable inserts to protect the dogs against various types of weapons, including handguns and knives.
The Justice for Animals in Service Act, also known as Quanto’s law, came into effect in 2015 and instituted a maximum jail sentence of five years for anyone convicted of intentionally killing a police dog or service animal. It applies to all service animals used in law enforcement, the military and for individuals with disabilities or specific medical needs.