On July 13 I wrote a post about the death of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections K9 Totti called RIP K9 Officer Totti ~ End of Watch. K9 Totti, a 2-year-old Golden Labrador, died on July 7, 2016, because he was left in a hot car for 3 hours by his handler, Sgt. Chad Holland. I’m not going to retell all the events of that day as honestly? They make me extremely angry. Totti’s death galvanized me on several levels. He died of heat exhaustion which is how my dog Callie died. Not because I left her in a hot car but because her vet of many years allowed her to languish in one of her exam rooms with a temperature that rose by the hour. By the time I took Callie out and arrived at the emergency veterinary practice, her temperature was past the point of being dangerous. My beloved Callie died because the prolonged and untreated temperature caused sudden onset of irreversible organ damage; she went into acute renal failure. The second reason K9 Totti’s death galvanized me is personal and I’m not “there yet” where I can think about it much less write it; someday. Suffice it to say I am indebted to a K9 officer and in writing about them, I’m paying it forward in my own way.
On October 20, 2016, K9 Totti received justice as her former handler, Chad Holland, following a bench trial, was found guilty of animal cruelty, sentenced to 2 days in a correctional facility and fined $300. There have been several media articles yet whether Holland is still employed as a correctional officer is unclear. Example ~ this article refers to him as “A former central Pennsylvania corrections officer” so to clarify if only for my own edification I reached out to a reporter I know in PA. She’s also curious and will find out from the Department of Corrections (DOC) on Monday.
K9 Totti and his handler were assigned to the Rockview State Prison, located just a few miles from Bellafonte PA, and by prison standards is quite large. Rockview has over 670 full-time employees and on September 30 had 2,367 inmates. It sits on property that consists of several thousand acres. Rockview is also the only PA prion equipped to administer the death penalty. Although technically PA is still a death penalty state, shortly after taking office in 2015 Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he was placing a moratorium on it until he reviewed a report on capital punishment in the state. Pennsylvania hasn’t executed an inmate since 1999 and has carried out only three executions since 1976, making it one of the least-active states with the death penalty. Yet the state also has one of the largest populations of death-row inmates with 176 as of October 3.
I’ve given you this data on Rockview so you can understand how important of a role K9 Totti had as part of the drug detection unit. Chad Holland had been a handler for 9 years. The car with Totti locked inside sans air conditioning or any type of ventilation was parked only 10 feet from his kennel yet Holland failed to take care of his partner ~ a living sentient being. Instead he talked on the phone, went inside one of the air-conditioned buildings; basically, everything he did was wrong. Holland might as well have put a gun to K9 Totti’s head and pulled the trigger. I think that we as a society are tired of reading about K9 hot car deaths due to handler negligence. The surrounding towns in PA were in an uproar and held demonstrations. We created a Twitter storm and two of the DOC top brass subsequently locked their Twitter accounts. The petition gathered over 165k signatures.
Whereas in the past police departments have circled the wagons around a handler, as Bob Dylan sang ~ times they are a-changin’. While I think the punishment given to Chad Holland is quite lenient at least it’s a start. As you saw in some of my other K9 posts, these negligent, irresponsible handlers are being held accountable.
Which brings me to the place I’m going next, K9 Bak’s murder by his handler, Matthew Peck in Oklahoma. Probably the worst case of wanton abuse committed by an officer. I also wrote about it on August 30 in a post called What Is It With These Psycho Cops???
However, that post was only the beginning of my involvement in K9 Bak’s death. Although unable to establish a relationship with the sheriff, I have with the district attorney and plan on being in OK for Peck’s trial. I’ve kept detailed notes and plan on writing about it. I simply cannot remain silent any longer.