A Porterville, California police dog died after he was left unattended in a patrol car for 90 minutes while his handler worked inside his home and the vehicle’s engine shut off.
Porterville police said the officer put the 4-year old Belgian Malinois named Idol in the vehicle with the air conditioning running on June 20, so the K-9 could cool down while he worked inside his home. When the officer returned an hour and a half later, he noticed the patrol car’s engine had shut off. K9 Idol was already deceased.
Temperatures in Porterville had peaked at 99-degrees that day. Temperatures inside the patrol car would have reached well into 120-degrees or more. Although the patrol car was outfitted with a warning system and safety measures to prevent such a tragedy, police said these safeguards did not activate because the engine had shut off.
The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office inspected the vehicle and were unable to determine what caused the engine to turn off. The Disctrict Attorney’s Officer has reviewed the case and determined that Idol’s handler will not face criminal charges. The department is now installing a new warning system for all K9 patrol vehicles which includes a paging device to alert officers when temperatures inside the car become too high.
Porterville Police Chief Eric Kroutil said the officer is taking the loss of his K9 partner very hard. “In his terms, it’s like losing a kid,” he explained.
“They’ve been together for two years. This officer is one of our top officers, he’s SWAT, he was our officer of the year last year for the department. He’s a stellar officer, he pays attention to all the details. It’s just a tragedy.”
Since 2011, more than 50 police K9’s have died inside hot patrol cars, and that number continues to rise every week. Heatstroke is so common, in fact, that it results in more deaths of K9 officers than gunshots, stabbings, and auto accidents each year. Heat-related incidents are the one of the most common causes of canine officer deaths, second only to medical and health-related issues.