Putting Florida K-9 Drago on a license plate could help raise money for other police dogs – CBS Miami
OCALA, Fla. (CBSMiami / AP) – A nonprofit that raises money to finance equipment and purchases of K-9 units nationwide may soon be promoting a famous Marion County police dog in statewide.
Drago, a 5-year-old German Shepherd and former deputy in the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, is on a potential license plate for K9s United.
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The organization is campaigning to get 3,000 pre-orders by October 2022 to put the tag into production.
The plaque features Drago, who is now retired, alongside the late K-9 Ryker, a Belgian Malinois from the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office. Above the two dogs, a message reads: “Because my service matters. “
K9S UNITED SUPPORTS NATIONAL LAW ENFORCEMENT UNITS
“Never in a million years, when I started K9s United, would I have thought that I would have my own license plate or the ability to have our own license plate,” said the founder. Debbie Johnson.
Johnson founded the organization six years ago after hearing about the death of K-9 Baron in St. John’s County and learning about the budget requirements of K-9 units.
“We help fund any needs that are not being met within their budget,” she said. “We donated anywhere from a dog to a harness and everything in between, whatever the equipment, whether it was training gear, a thermal alarm for the dog. vehicle. “
They also extended to training seminars after many requests from K-9 units. Last week, the group hosted more than 70 local, state and international law enforcement units at the Southeast Livestock Pavilion in Ocala for a training workshop.
DRAGO WAS FUNDED AND NAMED BY RESIDENTS OF MARION
Deputy Jeremie Nix, who was Drago’s manager, said he was fortunate enough to have his needs met as a K-9 manager who had worked for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for over 20 years .
“Being part of this organization has shown me that this is actually a rarity across the country,” he said of K-9 units with proper funding. “There are so many agencies that do not have the budgetary means to buy the things they need.
In addition to providing funding, K9s United has advocated for tougher legal penalties for police dogs, a measure that was passed as Florida Senate Bill 96 in 2019.
Following this success, the government also cleared K9s United for a possible specialty license plate in 2020 if 3,000 are pre-ordered by October 2022. Of three picks featuring dogs in charge of the application of laws, voters selected the rendering of Drago and Ryker, which more than 400 people have pre-ordered.
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“Drago was a very, very good working dog,” said Nix, who is also a member of the K9s United board. “We’ve had a fantastic relationship and we’ve had a very, very good professional career that has ended very successfully and on a high note.”
Nix says that while Draco is now happily retired and lives at home, he belongs to all of Marion County.
“Drago was actually bought with tons of small donations from citizens across the county, so this fundraiser was done like $ 5 at a time, $ 50 here,” he said. “Draco was their dog, and to top it off, Draco had the same name. We broadcast it on social media and let citizens vote. “
LICENSE PLATE REVENUES COULD PROVIDE $ 75,000 PER YEAR
License plates can be purchased for $ 33 on the DMV or k9sunited.org, and $ 25 of the cost and annual renewal fee goes directly to K9s United.
Johnson and Nix stressed that motorists don’t need to be ready to get a new plate immediately, as they are purchasing a voucher that can be redeemed at any time after production of the plates begins. If the target is not reached, the vouchers can go to other specialty dishes or be refunded.
“Even if we just sold the 3,000, it would be $ 75,000 a year for the organization so we can continue doing what we’re doing,” Johnson said. “We are all volunteers. We do not have paid staff.
Johnson says Florida law enforcement officials, dog lovers and supporters of the K-9 unit are among those pre-order plates.
“I’m sure a lot of people will know K-9 Drago. He has quite a reputation in Marion County, ”Johnson said.
Nix is also known in the county for saving the life of an infant who stopped breathing in 2018. He attempted CPR and transported the baby to hospital, where medics resuscitated the child.
The license plate, however, puts the K-9s like Drago and their importance in the spotlight.
“The citizens bought it. The citizens named him. He was there to protect the citizens, ”Nix said. “It is really important for the citizens of Marion County to know that their dog is on this Florida license plate, and it would be great to see those plates on cars all over Marion County.”
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