Summer & More K9 Deaths But First…

Summer & More  K9 Deaths But First…

Before I begin detailing the 2017 senseless, heat-related K9 deaths and one K9 who was mysteriously murdered, I want to do an update on several deaths from the summer of 2016.

I first wrote about the hot car death of K-9 Lina, an officer with the Madison County Sheriff’s department in November 2016,  The Senseless Death of K-9 Lina….Part 1

I knew there would be the second part because no decision had been made regarding disciplinary action or charges against the handler who had forgotten about her in a hot patrol unit parked in his driveway. Little did I know how convoluted her story would become until it began unfolding. I eventually wrote four parts because I wanted the public to know how some departments dismiss a hot car death as “an unfortunate accident”. The negligent handler might receive a minor disciplinary action but charges aren’t usually brought and if they are it’s typically a misdemeanor. The reasoning behind the prosecutor’s decision (with department input) basically comes down to negligence versus intention. Was the handler negligent? If the parties involved believe this then the K9s death is ruled accidental. If they believe the handler had intent then it’s criminal. I agree there’s a difference between intention and negligence for clearly in most cases but not all,  the K9s death was not the handlers intent. However, prosecutors and departments cannot continue to dismiss these deaths as unfortunate accidents and therefore deem the handler simply negligent. They must be held to a higher standard to protect their partners. These deaths are preventable and illustrate acts of wanton negligence or over-reliance on technology to protect the dogs when in reality, it is the handler’s responsibility. When an officer is partnered with a K9, they become just as close as a human partner. Would they lock their human partner in a vehicle for hours? With no means of escape? Unequivocally the answer is no. And if they did? The charges would be much harsher than a low-level misdemeanor and their careers would instantly end. Yet the powers to determine time and time again that the K9’s death is negligent accompanied by a plethora of excuses for the officer; overworked sleep deprivation ~ the list is endless.

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The September 9, 2016, hot car death of K-9 Lina was deemed an accident. Matt Durrett, 4th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney announced on September 23 that he was not charging Deputy Cornelison. To his credit, on September 26, Sheriff Phillip Morgan took disciplinary action for K-9 Lina’s death:

Deputy Cornelison will:

  1. Be suspended without pay for 60 days.
  2. Be removed from the K9 program.
  3. Be decertified as a K9 Handler.
  4. A letter of reprimand will be placed in his file.
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Sheriff Phillip Morgan

The community rallied around the deputy by forming a Facebook support group and collecting funds to help him while on the unpaid suspension. Finally, on November 12, a memorial service for K-9 Lina was held. Yet her name wasn’t on the MCSO Memorial Page.

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She was only two years old.

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Now…

On January 1, 2017, Madison County had a new sheriff,  Sheriff Rick Evans.

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K-9 Lina is finally listed on the MCSO Memorial page. In June 2017, a new K9 handler was announced on the MSCO website. Former Sheriff Phillip Morgan kept his word about having heat-sensing equipment in the K9 vehicles:

Clint Ham, is our new K-9 Handler, he has been partnered up with Kandy, and equipped with a new vehicle which has been paid for with 100% drug forfeiture funds, the vehicle is equipped with all the latest equipment, including heat sensor/alarms which will signal the handler if the temperature in the vehicle rises to a dangerous level, in addition it will roll the windows down, and will activated lights and siren if the condition is not corrected. Kandy from all indication will be an outstanding asset to the Madison County Sheriff Office.

As for Deputy Jonathan Cornelison? He has been promoted and is now Corporal Cornelison.

K9 Lina Cornelison

 K-9

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.

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Lina, we haven’t forgotten… 

 

Death of K9 Lina ~ The Aftermath Part 2

Death of K9 Lina ~ The Aftermath Part 2

On September 23, 2016, Matt Durrett, 4th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney of Washington County announced Deputy Jonathan Cornelison was not criminally negligent in the September 9th hot car death of K9 Lina because there was insufficient evidence to prove that he intended to hurt the 2-year-old K9. After the decision was announced Madison County Sheriff  Phillip Morgan declined to comment stating he hadn’t been able to thoroughly review the prosecutorial decision. On September 26, Sheriff Morgan announced the disciplinary action Deputy Cornelison would be subject to:

Deputy Cornelison will:

1. Be suspended without pay for 60 days.

2. Be removed from the K9 program.

3. Be decertified as a K9 Handler.

4. A letter of reprimand will be placed in his file.

Sheriff Morgan also announced that the department would install heat sensors in the K9 vehicles.

Nice, tidy ending for the tragic and unnecessary death of a young, vital Belgian Malinois named Lina. Yes, there is a difference between intention and negligence. Law enforcement officers understand that very well whether they choose to admit it or not. While I’m sure Deputy Cornelian didn’t get off duty that morning and decide “Today I’m going to kill my partner by leaving her unattended in the patrol car with the windows closed”, he was nonetheless clearly negligent and therefore responsible for her death.  In October 2015 Russ Hess, a retired handler and executive director of the United States Police K9 Association,  told reporters that “Police officers need to be held to a higher standard to protect their canine partners”. Both veteran handlers and animal advocates say such deaths are preventable and illustrate acts of negligence or over-reliance on technology to protect the dogs.  In this October 2015 interview, Scott Heiser, Director of the Criminal Justice Program for the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund said: “To our way of looking at things, an officer who allows a dog to die of heat exhaustion on duty is as neglectful as leaving a service revolver on a school playground.”

I agree wholeheartedly. Heat sensor systems such as Hot-N-Pop should be mandatory in all K9 vehicles.category1

Project Paws Alive, a nationwide 501(c) non-profit organization has created a nationwide K9 Heat Alarm Fund to provide law enforcement K9 Units with K9 heat alarm systems for agencies that cannot afford to purchase the equipment for their K9 vehicles. For those of you not aware of this truly wonderful organization, they operate completely on donations and sponsored support. Their mission? To provide lifesaving safety equipment to all working dogs. Please visit their website or find them on all social media venues.

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K9 Lina

Having said this, I still hold Deputy Cornelian 200% responsible for the death of K9 Lina.

Even if his vehicle had been equipped with a heat sensor unit, the system is not meant to be a long-term solution for your K9 partner while you help a friend fix a lawnmower, talk on the phone, pay a bill, stop in the station, run errands or confer with another agency on a police matter. I don’t care how busy you are, your dog depends on you, and  Deputy Cornelian failed her. Failed at keeping a beautiful dog alive and failed the taxpayers of the Madison County.

A handler still has to check on his partner even if the vehicle has a heat sensor system. You cannot solely rely on the equipment to protect your partner on a hot day while you run errands etc for hours.For the sake of argument let’s say Cornelian’s Crown Victoria was equipped with a heat sensor. Did it have the ability to pop a door lock? If so, was K9 Lina free in the vehicle or confined behind a barrier?

When he exited his vehicle after work that morning, why did he not automatically take K9 Lina out as well? Place her in the kennel behind the barn on his property where she lived?

When you train and handle a dog, they become just as close to you as any human partner. You cover each other. The handler depends on the dog to do the job they’ve been trained for and the dog depends on the handler to provide the basic necessities of life; food, water, cool air, and a place to sleep at the end of a long shift. But maybe I judge too harshly. Poor lad was “overworked” and suffered from “lack of sleep“. Perhaps people in Arkansas have a different genetic code than the rest of us mere mortals because, despite these obstacles aka excuses, instead of going to sleep after taking his children to daycare, Deputy Jonathan Cornelison made a series of choices. He chose to help repair a lawnmower at a friend’s house, chose to pay his water bill, chose to talk to his father on the telephone, chose to go to the bank, chose to go to the jail to meet with a probation officer and prosecutor, chose to go to the sheriff’s office, chose to go to an auto parts store, chose to meet with a Huntsville police officer regarding a DWI case and chose to have that discussion at JamDot Chillspot Spot Sports Bar & Grill in Huntsville.

At least we know Deputy Cornelian and the Huntsville officer stayed cool during their meeting because according to their Facebook page,JamDot Chill Spot is a restaurant/Sports Bar in Huntsville, AR where you can chill with friends and enjoy a nice meal and adult beverage. We have 10 TVs!!” Very nice considering the temperature at midday was 91 degrees F.

Meanwhile back at Cornelian’s home, I wonder how hot it was in the Crown Vic where K9 Lina was literally trapped?

Actually, I could tell you and be relatively close. I could also tell you the physiological effect extreme heat has on a dog’s body. I researched the subject in-depth following another hot car death of a K9 earlier in 2016. I also included this hot car temperature called Heat Kills in K9 Lina Part 1. It is excellent and easy to understand plus it includes videos which demonstrate how quickly the interior of a car becomes a death trap.

As sad as I was I felt there wasn’t much I could do about K9 Lina’s death.  I started to file away the URLs, photos, and notes I’d gathered on her. Then I saw it; staring back at me.

It was the first local newspaper report written approximately 1.5 hours after Deputy Cornelison discovered Lina’s body. I remember when I initially read it I had a feeling it would disappear so I quickly took a screenshot plus saved the page as a web page archive.

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Do you see what it was in the second paragraph that caught my eye? 

I’m glad I saved it because it did indeed “go away” but in its place came a social media firestorm; not for the deceased Lina but rather, the “poor kid”. I even discovered a relationship of sorts between Cornelison and the family of another disgraced handler. There was no pity for Lina ~ only blame-shifting by the masses. As I was preparing to begin writing this (never dreaming it would become so convoluted) I looked at the MCSO website to see how they had memorialized K9 Lina. As you can see, on November 18, 2016, she was still listed as being part of the MCSO K9 Unit.

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To complete the story of K9 Lina’s tragic and preventable death, I’m going to have to write another post;  K9 Lina ~ The Blame Game Part 3.

A Little Joy After My Bleak Posts Of Late…

A Little Joy After My Bleak Posts Of Late…

Some of you may have read my entries when I was nominated for a  (3) day blog challenge on “Quotes”. Of course, I chose dog quotes and I centered them around a pit bull mix puppy, approximately (6) months old named Blue. He had been discovered by security staff from one of Maine’s ski resorts, Sunday River in Newry on October 2, 2015. He was at the edge of the dense woods and to their horror  his muzzle had been taped shut. They called the ACO who in turn took him to  Bethel Animal Hospital which is owned by Dr. Gary Stuer,  part of my GSD Sasha’s medical team.  Honestly? As someone who lives in the Western Mountains of Maine, I can tell you with 100% conviction that it’s a miracle the puppy was discovered. The mountains are high and the woods dense and thick. Bethel and Newry (Sunday River) connect and you can’t tell when you’ve crossed the border of one into the other. 

Despite deep facial tissue damage the puppy  who the staff  named “Blue“,  made a wonderful recovery and was adopted by a lovely family. If you read this article  which also has a short video, you’ll find the link to Blue’s Instagram!

Bethel Animal Hospital had an Open House on October 8 and the guest of honor was no other than Blue! What a strong little guy he is! All muscle and kisses! One of the major networks was there and will be running a feature on him later this month.

They still haven’t found the waste of oxygen that did such a horrid thing to an innocent puppy then left him to die in the woods. I thought with the reward someone would have, as they say in Maine, thrown the culprit under the bus, but not yet and it’s been just over one year.

Blue is such a testament to the indomitable spirit that we all have but sometimes it’s in hiding. Look within yourself and you WILL find it. Maybe not all at once, but bit by bit. The will to survive is strong and a miracle thrown in along the way certainly doesn’t hurt.

My original posts:

Challenge #1  

Challenge #2 

Challenge #3 

“The average dog has one request to all humankind. Love me.”

~ Helen Exley