Canine Rights

Des Moines Officer Suspended Over Death of Police Dog

A police officer faces suspension without pay and the entire Des Moines police station makes policy changes to prevent another tragedy after one of their vice and narcotics K9 officers was needlessly killed.

Harley, the 7-year old Yellow Lab and K9 partner to Des Moines, Iowa police officer, Brian Mathis, died tragically and senselessly in the back of his police vehicle when Mathis left him locked in the car for over an hour while outside temperatures reached 96 degrees.

When it’s 96 degrees outside, temperatures inside a sealed car can exceed 140 degrees in just a matter of minutes.

According to The Des Moines Register,

… investigators found no malice or intent in Mathis’ actions and that Mathis was remorseful about what had happened. In addition to working as a police dog, Harley was also the Mathis family pet.

Officer Mathis drove to the station with Harley, intending to bring the dog inside to his air conditioned office. However, a phone call distracted the officer and he stepped inside, meaning to come right back out to get Harley. The quick phone call turned into a long meeting and, when a fellow officer accidentally kicked Harley’s food dish, jogged Mathis’ memory. He ran to the car but it was too late, his K9 partner was dead.

As a result of his actions, Mathis will face a 3-day suspension without pay and will be ineligible for another canine partner. Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw told reporters that Mathis is remorseful, accepting responsibility for his actions, and that he never intended to leave his dog in the car.

Because of Harley’s death, the Des Moines police have put in place a new set of policies to prevent these types of accidents from ever occurring again.

The department will buy new alarm systems for all police vehicles that designated to have police dogs. The alarm system is capable of popping the vehicles’ doors or starting the engine, and alerting officers remotely if temperatures inside the vehicle reach a dangerous level, even when the vehicle is not running.

Additionally, officers partnered with dogs will be required to train with their dogs twice a month, with at least 2 of the training sessions dedicated to the animals’ welfare and care.

This is the first incident for the Des Moines police department involving the death of a dog. Nationwide, it is estimated that about 15 police dogs per year are killed in overheating cars.

 

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Renagade

    Jul 14, 2013 at 8:16 am

    I hope charges from the A.S.P.C.A. are brought against him for cruelty to animals. On a day like that it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of that police car to reach temps of 120 degrees. He left the dog in there an hour, that poor pouch suffered before he passed away.

  2. fact of chnlove fraud

    Jun 26, 2013 at 9:56 pm

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  3. Mary

    May 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    If a civilian killed that dog, he or she would be charged with killing a member of law enforcement! I think turn about is fair play and this cop should face the same charges!

  4. Vic

    Apr 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

    What a bastard!

  5. EarlGrayHot

    Mar 20, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Appallng. That poor dog! No one should be so distracted they leave an animal OR a child in a hot car. The officer should be charged and disciplined.

  6. Don

    Mar 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

    15 dog a year die in police cars?? that is 15 to many, If we did that we would be in jail from charges from the SPCA. what about them 3 days off for killing their dog.. realy !

  7. TooRotten

    Jan 24, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Why do the cruisers not have the auto temp starters in their K-9 cruisers?? This simple to install device will auto regulate the temp inside the cars. Heat when cold, A/C when hot out. All cruisers designated for K-9 usage should have this installed when the cages and auto door opener is installed. This is a no brainer for any Police Dept. It saves many lives.

    • Tlnitstr8

      Mar 13, 2013 at 8:52 am

      I agree completely and was going to comment something similar. This was completely preventable. While I can’t imagine ever forgetting my child or my dog in the car, it does (obviously) happen with mind-boggling frequency and that’s why these devices were created. I’m stunned that they are not considered standard and necessary–and REQUIRED–on all vehicles that carry animal (not just police K9) partners regularly.

  8. Frank Mullins

    Jan 17, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I know when a civilian person leaves a pet or child in a vehicle unsupervised, they can and will be arrested for animal cruelity charges. Just because this officer is a public employee, does this make him exempt from the law that all american citizens, (including him) must follow?
    I don’t think so, he should be charged just like ANY forgetfull person is charged, so that this does not happen again. At least it wasn’t a person handcuffed and forgotten.

  9. old hippy

    Jan 17, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I understand it was a tragic mistake, however I feel the officer should have to answer for the consequences of his oversight. Criminally negligent animal abuse? The dog could not call for help,open a door, or start the car. I could see this happening to a parent with a young child left in the car. In the midst of their devastation, remorse, and loss, they would answer charges.
    I can’t understand how he could “forget” his partner and friend sitting in the car. The dog would have been there for him. When the dog needed him, he was not there.
    Take him off k-9 patrol. If he is to keep his job, perhaps his experience could be of use to other handlers. Offer him a job cleaning kennels. Would the demotion not be a reminder to others to take care of their animal first?
    I am sorry for his loss and the departments, butI am more sorry for the loss of a wonderful animal.
    There are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners.

  10. Earl Allen Boek

    Jan 17, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Wait just a minute here…these are not just dogs…these
    are officers with tails. When a bad guy hurts one of them
    they are charged like it was an officer, not a dog.
    Please fix this._citizenactivist

  11. Bob Burnitt

    Dec 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Yeah, the cop screws up and the tax payers get soaked for some expensive “alarm systems”. How about the cop simply doing his job and not leaving him in the car???

    You know, the shooting of family pets by POLICE is becoming an epidemic in this country. You make a cop mad, he shoots your dog. I am a 61 year old man, most of my life I have LIKED the police officers that I knew, and I have ALWAYS been a law abiding citizen. I just do not have that many encounters with Police, but when I do, it is usually some 30 year old loud mouth Bully that calls me Surrrrrrrrrrrr. These cops they have NOW, they are so aggressive and OPPRESIVE. I am talking about these 25 to 35 year old cops. They grew up watching too much “Miami Vice” and playing too many video games.

    Of course a LOT of this is because the GOVERNMENT has become so OPPRESSIVE in the last ten or eleven years. Film or tape a cop in a public place and he just might smash your camera and ARREST YOU. Of course, you can usually beat the RAP but you cannot beat the RIDE. People need to OBJECT to this in the strongest way.

    I can guarantee you, there are so many of these young cops out there that would just LOVE to blow your head off and have it SANCTIONED. Check the ACLU web site on Taping and photographing cops. Cops will try to BULLY you if they think you took a picture of THEM. Don’t let them do it. Check out Youtube with “Adam Kokesh and Shooting Dogs” Bob Burnitt Ellis County Texas

  12. rita lamey

    Oct 27, 2012 at 5:58 am

    Tell me this….if this Officers’ human partner had stayed in the car and fallen asleep, would he have simply ‘forgotten’ them and left them in there to ‘boil to death’ too? A ‘working partner’ within the force, is your best buddy, the one you look out for be that human or canine. He should be charged and unceremoniously sacked without question. Some partner this thoughtless individual turned out to be for Harley!

  13. Becky

    Oct 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    If he had shot, stabbed, or killed another human officer–on purpose or not-he would be suspended for weeks on end without pay and probably be fired.

    I fail to see how this is any different–accident or not.

    The reality is that K-9 handlers are supposed to be vetted thoroughly and go through months of training before they even qualify to get a K-9. They are well trained in the dog’s health, safety, etc. Heck! Most departments are even strict about the amount and type of food fed to the dog while off duty!

    If a private citizen would have been charged with assault, homicide, murder (as they would have), why is he an exception? He’s not.

  14. Francie Dattola

    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    If a civilian had accidentally killed a police dog it would be treated as if someone had assaulted an officer of the law. I’m amazed that he’s not only keeping his job but not being charged with a felony.

    • Hermansmom

      Oct 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Francie is right, its the here, anything a civilian does to a police dog is treated as though it happened to a regular police officer. We had a local police officer do the same thing to his canine partner. There is no way to prevent carelessness. If you look at the cost alone for training and maintaining a highly skilled police dog, they are an expensive asset. If I destroyed an asset of equivalent worth where I work, I’d get fired not suspended.

    • Deb

      Oct 15, 2012 at 10:00 am

      I agree with Francie anyone else would be charged with a felony-I don’t think he should keep his job he needs to go to jail and serve time for killing a police dog!

    • Wildflower

      Mar 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

      I agree. If a civilian had accidentally left their pet in the car and it died that civilian would be prosecuted and there would be no sympathy from the public as you see here. So it’s no wonder why officers of the law feel they are above the law when our justice system treat them as such. There was no excuse.

  15. Sue

    Oct 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    This is such a sad time in officer Mathis home heart and job. It is really beyond sad for his loss of partner and family member. So sorry for the suffering of officer Harley. But at least there is good news to come from this tragedy. Now all of Des Moines K9 officers will have a new layer of protection. I just wish that all other Law Enforcement Departments follow Des Moines lead to protect thos that protect them!

    • Brandy Arnold

      Oct 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      Excellent comment, Sue. Officer Mathis is devastated over the loss of his partner and furry family member, and will have to live with the guilt of his actions for the rest of his life. No amount of punishment from the police department can even come close to how he must be punishing himself. At least safeguards are now being put into place to prevent these types of accidents from happening again.

    • juliadidriksen

      Dec 5, 2012 at 7:51 am

      Two officers in 2010 intentionally shot and killed a defencless dog called Rosie. There was outrage over this and hope that the men involved be prosecuted and struck off the police force! The Des Moines Police obvioulsy have no regard for animals, but maybe in this case of the dog in the car it was a accident. However, no one should have made that mistake, and hopefully that Police force will step up!

      • Derek

        Mar 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        I agree that was a horrible example of police incompetance, but to clrify that incident with Rosie was in Des Moines, Washington State.

    • Ravenslove

      Feb 22, 2013 at 10:06 am

      I’m not sure I feel half as sorry for the officer as I do for the canine that suffered a horrible death. Hope this guy doesn’t have an infant he could forget in the car.

    • Laura

      Apr 1, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Bull. He should be fined for animal cruelty.He let the dog suffer to death, and there IS no excuse for it.

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