CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Police Canine Unit held a “Operation Vest Em” fundraiser Saturday to help buy new protective vests for the dogs on the unit.

“The vests that we have are currently past expiration,” says Chicago Police Lt. Vick Guerrieri, Canine Unit Commander. “We received vests back in 2005 and their warranty lasts for about five years, so our vests are 7-8 years old.”

According to Guerrieri, the current vests are old and getting older with every passing day. That could potentially put a canine officer in danger.

“Because of moisture, because of heat, because of the way the vests are stored. The material that these are made of, it breaks down.”

Guerrieri says the vests are a requirement for the dogs just as they are for human police officers.

“We want to protect both our officers and their canine partners by protecting them with the ballistic vests that they’re wearing out there.”

The current CPD Canine Unit includes 20 dogs and Guerrieri says six vests have been donated already. But his budget allows for 27 dogs, which means the fundraising effort will have to help cover the cost of 21 vests. And they are not cheap.

“The cost of each vest is $850 and we have to make sure that all the dogs we have out there working are protected,” he says.

For people who couldn’t make it to the event, donations can also be mailed to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, Canine Unit Fundraiser, 1407 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago, Illinois, 60607. Guerrieri asks that contributors write “K-9 unit” in the memo area of their check. You can like the canine unit’s Facebook page.

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