This one really hurts. A Hialeah Police K9 handler ended his shift Wednesday morning (after an OT search for a missing person), went into his Davie house, and left his two K9 partners in the vehicle. By evening, both dogs had expired. The officer was a seven-year handler and 13-year cop. He was given both a Belgian Malinois and a bloodhound because he was a proficient handler. How could this happen?
Apparently, when the handler went into his house, he turned off the engine of his assigned Ford SUV. With the vehicle not running, his heat alarm supposedly went inactive. I do not understand a system designed like this because every one I have had in my K9 cruisers still functioned with the engine off. It is a back-up in case the engine stalls for a mechanical reason and the a/c goes out.
Most modern heat alarm systems trip at a pre-set high temperature, firing up the lightbar or an audible horn, dropping the rear windows, and activating a fan. Some have pager options and door poppers, while others have a manual shut down routine that prompts the handler to remove the dog. A handler tests his system each shift. Fairly standard stuff, but to me the most important feature is the audible alarm. A handler should not be far from his car because it carries precious cargo.
I can remember the times when my partner and I went inside the house at the end of a long shift, only to be awakened hours later when the Florida heat had fired up the interior of our vehicle–and the alarm went active. I would stumble outside in my shorts and flip flops to deactivate the wailing siren. It reminded me that the thing worked.
Rather than placing blame on the machinery, the cop will suffer the consequences of his inaction. I was a K9 handler for eight years and I never, ever forgot my K9 dog somewhere. This situation is painful to me because I know how attached I was to each of my four-legged partners. They were a part of me and I always had to know where they were.
The Davie Police Department is investigating the K9s’ deaths. The 17th Circuit State Attorney’s Office will review the results, if criminal charges are filed. There will also be an internal investigation by the Hialeah Police, which may result in departmental discipline for the officer.
The first two paragraphs of Florida State Statute 828.12–
(1) A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, commits animal cruelty, a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.(2) A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal, or a person who owns or has the custody or control of any animal and fails to act, which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, commits aggravated animal cruelty, a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.
Either section one or two of FSS 828.12 are potential charges, depending on the information uncovered in the investigation. There may be mitigating circumstances of which we are unaware, so we should let the Davie Police do their job and conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.
Eight other police dogs have died in 2015. The causes include gunfire, poisoning, vehicle crashes, drowning, and animal attacks. I am proud of the service these dogs provide in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. No other resource can perform the job of a K9 team.
K9 Jimmy was a seven-year-old bloodhound given to HPD by the Jimmy Ryce Center. Jimmy served his community for six years. Belgian Malinois K9 Hector was four years old and had worked the street for a year. Rest in peace, dogs.