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NILES Bite the Bullet founder to ride in festival parade



Published: Fri, June 29, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The program has provided bulletproof vests to K-9 officers in Niles, Boardman and Warren.

By DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NILES -- His goal may be for the dogs, but a city boy's campaign to protect police dogs landed him a spot in Independence Day activities.

Billy Martin Jr., 10, started Bite the Bullet about a year ago after reading about an Ashtabula County police dog that was shot and killed in the line of duty. Bite the Bullet raises money to buy bulletproof vests for police dogs that need them.

Billy will ride in a Niles police car with the Niles K-9 during the city's Fourth of July parade that starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the police station.

Other holiday festivities include rides at Waddell Park from Saturday through Tuesday beginning at 6 p.m. and a fireworks display at 11 p.m. Wednesday in the park.

Success of campaign: So far the campaign has vested K-9s Schultz of Niles, Rookie of Boardman and Karr of Warren.

"His goal is to get a vest for every dog in the state and then we'll move on to other states," said Melissa Martin, Billy's mother.

The program has taken Billy to speaking engagements throughout the region.

"Most everyone thinks it's cool," said Billy, an animal lover who will be a fifth-grader at Jackson Elementary school next year.

What does he get out of it?

"He only wants a picture of every dog he vests to hang in his bedroom," his mother said.

Each vest costs about $500. Police officers fill out applications to vest their dogs. A vest must be fitted for each canine officer.

"As soon as we get $500 in the Bite the Bullet fund, we order a vest," Martin said.

How program works: To get a vest through the program, a dog must serve a dual purpose such as drug detection and bomb detection. The vests come from Macy Associates in California and are manufactured by Second Chance.

The campaign aims to vest one dog per department. After fitting a dog in each department in the state, Bite the Bullet will aim to vest the other dogs.

A dog from Perry Township police, near Dayton, and another from Mogadore police are next on the list to get the protective gear. The handler for the Perry Township K-9 is paying for half the cost of his dog's vest, Martin said.

The Bite the Bullet fund is at First Star Bank. Checks, made payable to Bite the Bullet, also may be mailed to Billy, c/o Bite the Bullet, 31 N. Clover St., Niles 44446.

Donations to the fund have run the gamut.

"We've gotten organizations, individuals and families," Martin said. "We got one from a little boy whose grandfather read him one of the stories about Bite the Bullet. He sent a $1 bill. He said, 'I know this isn't much, but it's as much as I can give you.' It was really cute."

Billy was chosen last year as a & quot;Millennium Dreamer, & quot; honored for his efforts by McDonald's and Walt Disney World. The program honored 2,000 of the world's brightest youngsters.




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