PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Portsmouth Police Department K9s received custom ballistic vests as part of a pledge from a local company.

In 2019, the Breeden Company pledged $20,000 for ballistic K9 vests for police departments in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth.

The company fulfilled its pledge Wednesday to the Portsmouth Police Department by supplying their seven news K9s with vests.

Jake Marshall, VP of Acquisitions and Development said Breeden decided to pledge the money after the death of a Norfolk Police Department K9 in 2016.

“A few years ago, there was an incident in Norfolk where one of the police dogs was unfortunately shot and since we heard about that, we wanted to make an impact,” Marshall said.

The donation was enough to get each dog on Portsmouth’s force two ballistic vests.

Six separate groups of dogs make up the police department’s K9 unit and each handler trains with them for hours every day.

The K9 units hold very important roles in day-to-day police work; assisting on SWAT situations, detecting narcotics, explosives and more.

Officer Vere Shultz has been with his canine partner, Ryder, for five years. He said Ryder is so much more than a dog.

“The fact that he’s there with me – it’s another police officer, it’s another back up unit, someone I learn to trust with my life,” Shultz said.

Even though the vests are branded as “ballistic,” they have so many other uses.

“We go any and everywhere, through the woods, through the swamp, through the briers. We can use them to pick them up, to attach leashes,” he said.

The department just welcomed six new additions to the K9 unit, something Public Information Officer Victoria Varnedoe said added to the importance of the donation.

“When responding to daily calls for service, anything can really happen when they’re out on the job. We want to be as prepared as we can if that time comes and something happens, we want to make sure that our canines and our officers are prepared and protected,” she said.