ELIZABETH, NJ - Union County Sheriff’s Office K9 Caesar will receive a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to a charitable donation from the nonprofit organization 'Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.'. K9 Caesar’s vest is sponsored by Dr. Julie Tropeano of Lincroft and will be embroidered with the sentiment “In memory of Mark Hratko.” Delivery is expected within eight to 10 weeks.

K9 Caesar is a 2-year-old German Shepard, certified in patrol and narcotics work, who is partnered with Officer Nelson Agurto.

Caesar became a member of the Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) in May 2018. He began his formal police training in July 2018 and successfully completed training with Officer Agurto in December 2018.

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'Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.' is a 501(c)(3) charity located in East Taunton, MA, whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States.

The non-profit was established in 2009 to assist law enforcement agencies with this potentially lifesaving body armor for their four-legged K9 officers. Since its inception, 'Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.' provided over 3,500 U.S. made, custom fitted, NIJ certified protective vests, in 50 states, through private and corporate donations, at a value of $6.9 million dollars.

The program is open to dogs actively employed in the U.S. with law enforcement or related agencies who are certified and at least 20 months of age. New K9 graduates, as well as K9s with expired vests, are eligible to participate.

The donation to provide one protective vest for a law enforcement K9 is $950.00. Each vest has a value between $1,744 and $2,283 and has a five-year warranty, and an average weight of 4-5 lbs.

The Union County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Search and Rescue Unit was formed in 1983 and has provided assistance to County and regional law enforcement agencies for over thirty-five years.

The UCSO is home to a regional K9 training academy that has graduated nearly 1,000 K9-handler teams in patrol, scent and explosives detection certification. The Unit provides services to all law enforcement agencies in Union County, is a member of the NJ Detect and Render Safe Task Force and regularly assists various Federal agencies in support of their law enforcement efforts.

Additionally, the UCSO K9 Unit served with distinction in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11/01, searching at Ground Zero.

There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States. For more information or to learn about volunteer opportunities, call 508-824-6978.

'Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.' provides information, lists events, and accepts tax-deductible donations of any denomination at vik9s.org or mailed to P.O. Box 9 East Taunton, MA 02718.