04/24/2013 04:54 EDT | Updated 06/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Kennel airbags save life of police dog in crash

Police say specially-designed side airbags played a vital role in protecting a police dog during a traffic collision in Vancouver Sunday.

The dog's handler said the kennel-area airbags "deployed perfectly" when the unmarked police car was badly damaged in a crash with another vehicle at the intersection of Main Street and Terminal Avenue at around 4 p.m. PT.

Both the dog and the officer suffered only minor injuries, police said.

In a written statement, the Vancouver Police Department said its fleet of K9 unit vehicles was updated in 2011 to include side curtain airbags for the kennel areas.

"It was originally planned to remove the side airbags as they would not deploy properly around the kennel, but the supply company was able to fabricate the kennels to accommodate the airbags, which proved vital in ensuring the VPD police dog survived..." the statement said.

Police said the unmarked K9 unit vehicle was responding to a 911 call at the time of the collision.