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A Southaven, Mississippi police officer is facing disciplinary action after his K-9 partner, a black Labrador mix named Gunner, died after being left in the officer’s hot patrol car.
Gunner, a 6-year old narcotics detection dog with the Southaven Police, died last Tuesday when his handler left him inside the patrol car parked outside the police station. The vehicle was not running and all 4 windows were rolled up.
Approximately two hours after parking the car with Gunner inside, the officer returned to find the dog in severe distress. Temperatures inside the car are estimated to have reached 130-degrees. Gunner was rushed to an emergency veterinarian but was unable to be saved.
K9 Gunner was the only police dog assigned to the department’s narcotics division and had only been partnered with the officer for 3 weeks when he died.
Southaven Police are not releasing the name of the officer responsible for K9 Gunner’s death.
In the state of Mississippi, there are zero laws in place to protect pets and working animals left in hot cars. The officer will not face criminal charges in Gunner’s death.
Southaven Police’s K-9 unit patrol cars are equipped with safety features that keep the vehicle running with the air conditioner on and alert the handler if the temperature inside becomes too hot. Gunner’s vehicle did not have that safety equipment installed.
Police Chief Steve Pirtle said the officer will, however, face disciplinary action. He also says the department is taking steps to ensure a similar incident does not occur in the future.
Despite increased safety measures, laws against it, and an increase in public awareness of the dangers associated with dogs in hot cars, there continues to be a rise in the number of police dogs dying inside their handler’s hot patrol car.
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.
When the very people we look to for help in stopping citizens from leaving dogs to suffer and die in hot cars are allowing the same to happen to their own K-9 partners, how can we expect change?