Frequently Asked Questions


1. What is Project Paws Alive?

Project Paws Alive is a Nationwide non-profit organization working to provide protective K9 equipment to underfunded Law Enforcement, Fire, Search & Rescue, and Military K9 Units throughout the United States. The specialized and custom K9 equipment includes, but is not limited to: K9 bullet & stab-proof ballistic vests, K9 First Aid Field Trauma Kits, K9 PCM Military Grade Cooling Vests, K9 Kevlar boots, K9 Narcan kits, oxygen recovery mask kits, and K9 vehicle heat alarm systems with the “No K9 Left Behind” and “WatchDog” features. Project Paws Alive is 100% volunteer operated.

2. How much does all this cost?

Each K9 vest is custom-built using high-end ballistic material and costs $1400 depending on the size of the K-9 and specific agency equipment requirements. Each law enforcement agency has different requirements and the final total cost is reflective of those customizations. Specialized SWAT K9 Tactical ballistic vests are also an option and start at $3500.  K9 first aid field trauma kits are$350. Each of these items is specifically designed and ordered to meet specific agency needs, and K9 size where applicable.  While the cost of these items is rather high, we believe that a price cannot be placed on the lives they save. We donate only the highest quality equipment to ensure a long duration of usability and to ensure this equipment holds up to the stress and use they will encounter on a daily basis. Our equipment advisory board consists of active K9 handlers and is constantly reviewing equipment to ensure only the best is donated. All equipment donated by Project Paws Alive exceeds NIJ standards, and most is military grade.

3. Is it worth the expense? After all, they’re just dogs and pets, right?

Law Enforcement K9s and Military dogs (MWD) are not just dogs. These K9s are highly trained, intelligent, and specialized. Most of them hold multiple certifications they must certify for yearly. As law enforcement and military activities becomes increasingly dangerous, agencies are relying more and more on the agility, versatility, speed, stamina, and senses of K9s to protect officers and citizens. Given the substantial investment of time and money in each dog’s training and care, and their contribution to the success of the agencies, it makes sense to protect them as they serve our community and country. Trained K9s can cost anywhere from $20k -$50k depending on their breeding, training, specializations, and health care costs. The investment in a protective vest and field kit greatly expands the duration of the K9’s life and ultimately reduces the costs most agencies could incur if the K9 is injured or killed on duty.

4. Does a dog or cat really need an oxygen mask? Can’t they just use the normal masks used by most fire and EMT?

No. If you have pets then take a look at the oxygen masks your vet has. You will notice that they are of different shapes and widths to be used depending on the species and size of the animal. Larger dogs need a different mask than smaller cats. Birds, smaller animals like hamsters, and reptiles (yes we said reptiles) require much smaller and longer masks. The variations go on depending on the specific animal but the main point is that a human oxygen mask does not work on animals because they do not fit, and therefore do not provide the required oxygen. First responder agencies are typically not permitted to spend funds on equipment not designed to save human lives. Because these first responders cannot use equipment that is not on their truck, they are often left with little to no options to save the lives of domestic pets that have suffered from smoke inhalation, or pets that need to be resuscitated after losing consciousness from exposure to dangerous toxic fumes.

5. Do you make the equipment?

No. We do not make any of the equipment we donate nor do we support the use of “home-made” products. When lives are at stake only professionally made and field tested equipment should be used to ensure reliability and usefulness of the product.

6. I am a K9 handler; how can I request a vest for my unit/canine?

Units and handlers should refer to the Request Equipment page for information about requesting K9 equipment. Please note that all requests are screened and verified. You must be part of a legally recognized first responder agency located in the United States to be considered for one of our campaigns/fundraisers.

7. My local Police department doesn’t have a K9 unit. Where does my donation go?

Police departments which do not have a K9 unit receive coverage from another local, county, or state K9 division. If your local agency does not have any K9s then your donation is pooled to provide equipment to a K9 unit servicing the closest area.

8. How much of my donation will actually go to Project Paws Alive?

Project Paws Alive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and will receive 100% of your donation. In addition, all donations are tax-deductible. Donations made by PayPal, Square, GoFundMe, and other third-party payment systems will incur standard processing fees and the remaining amount will be transferred to Project Paws Alive. Fees and rates are determined by these third-party providers directly and are subject to change. If you wish to avoid these fees we encourage you to donate via check or money order mailed directly to Project Paws Alive.

9. I want to fund-raise for a K9, how much do I need to raise?

It depends on what equipment the K9 handler selects and what customizations are needed. We recommend you contact us in advance so we can help determine your total goal.

10. Can I determine which item my money goes to, or which agency?

Yes. If your donation covers the full cost of an item we provide you can tell us which item(s) you want your money to go towards and which agency you prefer as well. Covering the entire cost of an item also makes you a sponsor and you will receive the relative level of recognition.  Sponsors always have the right to remain anonymous if they prefer.

If your donation does not cover the entire cost of an item, you may still provide us with your requested item and agency of choice however we will set aside the funds until we receive enough to cover the item from other donations. When the total amount is received the item will then be donated. Please note that we will not be able to provide a time frame for when items will be donated if the cost is not covered in full at the time of your donation. Because each item is custom ordered and we rely on donations, we have to wait until the total amount of the item is collected before we can place an order and provide estimated times of delivery.

11. I can’t donate cash; do you accept donations of anything else?

Absolutely!  For more details please visit our How You Can Help page. Project Paws Alive accepts donations of gift cards, and items that can be sold online to raise funds.

12. How else can I help?

The How You Can Help page provides information about all the various ways you can contribute to our organization. For example, Project Paws Alive is in need of grant writers and marketing communications specialists to donate their services; interested parties should contact admin@projectpawsalive.org  for more information. Spreading the word about our cause is also a big help. Come visit us at our fund-raisers, follow us on our social media sites like Twitter and “like” us on Facebook. All these actions help to bring awareness to the cause and contribute to our fundraising efforts. You can sign up to volunteer with Project Paws Alive. We can’t be everywhere at once, but we sure do make a larger impact through the generosity of time that our volunteers provide.

13. I’m in school, what can I do?

Depending on your situation you may be able to lead a fundraising drive at your school, church, or in your local community. Groups needing community service hours can also participate. If you are interested please contact admin@projectpawsalive.org  for more information.

14. Do you accept donations of stocks/bonds, property, or donor advised investment donations?

Yes we do. If you have a financial organization managing your items please let us know as we already have arrangements in place with most financial institutions. These agencies have already vetted us and verified our credentials through their security and auditing measures. They already have all of our electronic financial information on file which will make your donation very easy and quick.

15. How do I make a donation through my will or trust?

Please contact us to discuss your request. In general most states require you to have legal documentation drawn up by an attorney naming Project Paws Alive as a beneficiary and specifically stating what the donation is; whether it is financial or physical (such as a house, boat, car, etc). Once that is in place you would send us notification for our records.

16. I want to fund-raise for an agency, how can I start?

Please contact us to discuss prior to starting. Most agencies require their approval prior to any fundraising activities. Some agencies require an approval process that may even include the requirement to have a special concession made or a vote to be held during a special counsel meeting. Military units have various processes across branches. Fundraising without written agency approval can lead to many problems of significant nature, including fraud accusations. It can also get the handler(s) involved in trouble at work for breach of protocol which could impact their career. To ensure agencies are aware of fundraising activities and approve them, Project Paws Alive will not support/endorse/associate with or in any manner support any fund-raising activities or events without the express written permission of the agency and handler(s) directly via our organization’s authorization form.

17. Why can’t I make a donation to my local agency directly?

There is no standard answer for this. Some agencies will accept direct donations. Most will not. Each agency at every level (city/county/state/federal) has various rules around this. For the most part agencies will not accept direct donations from individuals, businesses, or groups because they are public service agencies and taking donations directly from the public is usually prohibited. In some cases there are political reasons or budgetary reasons.

Project Paws Alive provides these agencies with a safe donation collection entity which holds no political, financial, or special interest. We hold no direct benefit from the donation so by virtue of being a national nonprofit we meet the requirements of all agencies to enable them to accept K9 equipment donations.

Donors who work through Project Paws Alive to donate to their agency of choice still receive direct acknowledgement for their donation and often get to meet the K9s and take pictures with the K9 Unit. In some cases donors will also receive special recognition directly from the agency.

Another point to consider is use of your funds. We hear increasing complaints that donor funds were used for something other than the K9’s needs. When you donate directly that Department or Foundation can use your funds for anything they want which does not have to be the K9 unit. That is the risk you take when direct financial donations are made. This is why we encourage you to donate through us. Not only do we ensure the equipment gets to the K9s and your funds are used appropriately, we provide you with proof and in many cases can arrange for you to meet the K9s.

18. I saw a K9 vest online cheaper than what you use, what’s the difference?

We donate two types of K9 vests; ballistic and PCM cooling. We do not produce the vests so the final cost (product + shipping) is at the discretion of the vendors. However you get what you pay for. Let’s break it down on why that matters:

Ballistic vests are NOT all created equally. Many of the cheaper vests only cover the back, and do not cover the chest and/or abdomen of the K9. Most injuries and death related entry points on K9s are in their chest or abdomen. K9s carry all their vital organs in this area and therefore its critical to provide protection. Some vests only have a chest strip; that is mainly to hold the vest together it is not for protection. Proper chest protection is comprised via a chest panel. Other vests are only bullet resistant or stab resistant but not both. No one knows if the bad guy will have a gun or a knife so proper protection should always be rated as a “combo”, meaning it is both bullet & stab resistant. Weight is another factor. Cheaper vests can typically mean they weigh more because they are using old Kevlar. Due to the activity of most K9s the last thing they need is a heavy vest because they simply won’t wear them. NIJ rating is another key factor. The National Institute of Justice releases their minimum Kevlar protection ratings every year. These ratings are updated every year to adjust to the constant change in firearms commonly found in use. This rating means that if you are using anything less, you are basically wasting your money as it won’t protect you or a K9. Kevlar fibers break down over time even when not in use so Kevlar vests are recommended to be replaced every five years. Some of the cheaper vests contain old Kevlar thus a lower cost. As you can see there are a myriad of factors that go into quality K9 ballistic vests, and generally selecting a vest based on price alone is not advisable. Please refer to our Ballistic vest page for more information.

PCM cooling vests are not the same cooling vests available online. General dog cooling vests either require being frozen or must be submerged in water and only work for about an hour. These vests shock dogs from the frozen ice or leave them wet. PCM vests (Phase Change Material) were developed for the military using propriety gel packs that not only hold their cooling temperature for 4-6 hours, but also redirect heat away from the K9’s body. The gel packs are housed inside a thin material layer so they are not directly on the K9’s skin. This provides a cool, dry, comfortable, and light-weight duty vest the K9s can wear all shift long. Double-shift? No problem. The PCM vests only need to be placed on ice or around a bag of ice for 20 minutes and it will fully recharge for 4-6 hours. Many handlers use a small cooler in their vehicle to enable the vest to remain cool and prevent heat stroke. Please refer to our PCM Cooling Vest page for more information.

19. Where can I verify your organization?

You can view our complete profile on GuideStar, the leading nonprofit verification and auditing site. Project Paws Alive is proudly the only Nationwide K9 Equipment Nonprofit awarded Guidestar’s Platinum Seal of Transparency. The Platinum Seal is only awarded to the top 1% of nonprofits; ensuring you can donate to Project Paws Alive with confidence. View our GuideStar rating by clicking here. The IRS website also contains a list of all approved nonprofits with 501c3 status. You can search their website or click here for a direct link.

20. Why aren’t K9s provided this equipment by their own agency?

Due to budget cuts and other economic issues 92% of all K9 units are run solely on donations. In almost all cases, the handlers must personally pay for their K9 partner’s needs which includes medical, food, grooming, training, certifications, and safety equipment such as K9 protective vests, K9 First Aid kits, K9 cooling vests, K9 heat alarms and more. Many people assume that because the K9 is an officer of the agency then the K9 must therefore get all the equipment it needs to be protected and that the agency pays for all its expenses. This assumption is entirely false. Most K9 units are considered “non essential” units and therefore generally do not receive budget funding. These underfunded agencies rely on Project Paws Alive to provide this vital K9 equipment, and we rely entirely on donations to fulfill these requests.