Lottery winner and nonprofit provide boost to Minnesota's K-9 police dogs

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Minnesota's K-9 police units have received a helping paw this week from a lottery winner and a national charity.

Last year Joe and Rhonda Meath hit the jackpot with a $11.7 million Hot Lotto win, and German Shepherd trainer Rhonda wanted to use some of that money to help the K-9 unit at the St. Paul Police Department.

FOX 9 reports she donated $14,000 to the unit to cover the purchase and full training of a new K-9, and watched 16-month-old "Officer Falco" graduate training school along with several other recruits at a ceremony on Thursday.

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His partner, four-year patrolman Brian Ficcadenti, told FOX 9: "It's absolutely phenomenal. Without that support, we wouldn't have this today."

The TV station notes training a K-9 is expensive, costing $8,500 to purchase and $4,000 for full training certification, but it is also expensive to equip them afterward.

In Duluth, the Northland K-9 unit were given some help with that this past week by Massachusetts-based nonprofit Vested Interest, which raises money to buy protective vests for K-9 dogs across the country, WDIO reports.

The bullet and stab proof vests are pricey, costing $950 each, and Vested Interest purchased seven for the unit.

"We are very grateful to Vested Interest for making this possible," Lt. Chad Nagorski told WDIO. "Because of budget limits, we can't always afford to buy equipment like this. Sometimes the K9s are in more danger than us, since they are the closest to the suspect sometimes."

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K-9 dogs are generally German Shepherds and have several uses, from the detection and apprehension of suspects, to sniffing out narcotics or explosives.

The Hibbing Daily News reports K-9 dogs in the north of the state have been busy recently, noting that in the past few weeks they have helped locate a missing toddler on the Iron Range, found a weapon used in a Duluth bank robbery, helped apprehend a suspect threatening a man with a knife in Superior, and assisted with multiple drug investigations.

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