In the summer of 2016, there were twelve known heat-related deaths of K9s who were left in a hot vehicle by their handler. As of August 22, 2017, there has been thirteen heat-related K9 deaths in the US; twelve in a hot vehicle and one overworked in the oppressive heat. It doesn’t end there however because another K9 was “mysteriously” murdered, bringing the total death rate to fourteen.
Every year the K9 death toll climbs despite more public awareness. But then, these dogs don’t die at the hand of a member of the public but rather, through the negligent actions of their handler. This is not simply not acceptable. Police officers need to be held to a higher standard to protect their canine partners; a highly skilled and trained dog that would take a bullet intended for his human. The rise in heat-related K9 deaths are preventable and illustrate acts of negligence or over-reliance on technology to protect these dogs. Safety monitoring system aside, how does one “forget” their partner? These K9s are the unsung heroes of any police department plus loyal companions who are frequently put in harm’s way because, like their human partner, their job is to protect and serve. I thought law enforcement as a whole had progressed to the point where departments placed the same importance on a K9 officer as they do on a human one; that their service, sacrifices, and lives are viewed with the same intensity as a human. Sadly I was mistaken for it appears that many departments view these invaluable canines as mere equipment, disposable commodities. A paltry memorial service (if at all), no media coverage past the initial death, and the department “circles the wagons” around the handler, often not releasing his name for months. He’s allowed to continue working pending investigation or sometimes suspended with pay.
To illustrate the integral role canines have in law enforcement, I’ve chosen three cases from 2017 that demonstrate the value these remarkable animals bring to their departments and community.
K-9 Casper Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office West Palm Beach, FL
On May 12, 2017, Casper, a 4-year-old K9 SWAT and bomb detection dog with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, took a bullet for his handler during a Jupiter, Florida, shootout. Miraculously, the bullet missed K-9 Casper’s vital organs and he was saved with immediate veterinary intervention. The story and heartwarming video can be seen here in a video provided by the PBSO. In a media interview, his handler describes the harrowing ordeal and how grateful he is to his partner.
K-9 Casper has since returned to work and July 11, 2017, was named “K-9 Casper Day” in Palm Beach County. The suspect, 46-year-old Philip O’Shea, was killed at the scene.
K-9 Cain Crossville Police Department TN
On August 2, K-9 Cain, a 3-year-old trained in patrol and narcotics with the Crossville Police Department in Tennessee, died after being stabbed multiple times by a suspect he was pursuing. Despite heroic efforts by his handler and a Crossville Fire Department member, this hero succumbed to his injuries. He was honored in a moving funeral service attended by hundreds on August 11.
His grief-stricken handler talks about losing his faithful partner in one of the passionate descriptions I’ve ever heard of the bond between a handler and their dog. The suspect, 28-year-old Dustin Lee Dixon, remains in custody.
K-9 Lex Adams County Sheriff’s Office CO
On August 16, 2017, K-9 Lex, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois certified in narcotics and patrol with the Adams County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, saved his injured partner by opening a latched gate with his paw and going to his partner’s aid . The dynamic duo had become separated in a chase when the deputy jumped a fence to pursue the suspect and became embroiled in a fight. The handler was hospitalized for his injuries but made a full recovery. The suspect, 25-year-old Gabriel Steven Garcia, was charged with attempted first-degree murder and assault in the attack on the deputy and remains in custody with a latch he can’t open.
Once again, a dog comes to their human partner’s aid.
The first to sense the hostility of a suspect,
The first to react to protect his master.
The first to enter where danger lurks.
The first to detect the hidden intruder.
The first to take action against violence.
The first to sense his master’s joy.
The first to know his master’s sorrow or fear.
The first to give his life in defense of his master.
The last to be forgotten by those who work with others like him.
They know him as a “Partner,” not just an animal.
Next Up ~ K9 Doki