ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Two local retired K9s could be featured on specialty license plates. It is part of an effort to help others throughout the state.
K9s have important and dangerous jobs.
“They are taking drugs off the street, helping find missing elderly, missing children you name it,” said K9s United founder Debbie Johnson.
To show appreciation for their service, K9s United is pushing for a specialty license plate that would feature K9 Drago, who is retired with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and K9 Ryker, who spent many years with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
The organization must pre-sell 3,000 license plates before they can go into production. Johnson said more than 500 have been ordered. The deadline to reach that goal is Oct. 2022.
If you buy one through your local DMV or the K9s United website, you will be mailed a voucher for when it is time to pick it up.
If K9s United does not reach the 3,000-plate goal, you will get your money back or can apply it to another specialty plate.
“It’s a great way for the community to show their support for everything that they do,” Johnson said.
It’s one of the reasons why she is so passionate about K-9s United, an organization helps K9 units around the country.
Johnson established it shortly after St. Johns County’s K9 Baron was killed in the line of duty in 2014.
She has been pushing for more action since then.
In 2018, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K9 Fang was shot and killed.
The following year, Gov. Ron DeSantis made it a more serious crime to harm a police dog, which is now a second-degree felony. The license plate proposal followed shortly after.
K9 Ryker, who would share a spot on the license plate, died from natural causes in 2020.
He spent seven years with St. Johns County.
Lieutenant Nicole Burrell was Ryker’s handler the entire time. Their bond was special.
“You are with them more than you are with your family and your coworkers because they go with you absolutely everywhere,” Burrell said.
The special dogs are truly considered part of the force.
“We really do put a ton of time and effort, blood sweat and literally tears into the training and preparing for the job that we are doing,” Burrell said. “We are doing it simply because we want to keep our community safe.”
K9s United is also working to get more specialized vests for police K9s.
The vests are bullet and knife resistant and float.
They would help protect dogs during dangerous calls and searches.
Earlier this year, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s K9 Chaos was shot while searching for the man accused of killing Nassau County Deputy Josh Moyers.
Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.