NEBRASKA CITY – News that a police dog in Savannah, Mo., died of heat exhaustion after being left in a vehicle following his overnight shift has Nebraska City Police Sgt. Chris Richardson continuing his call for K9 safety.

He says there are systems available that will alert handlers, start exhaust fans and even open doors in response to rising temperatures. He called a heat fatality to a police dog inexcusable.

 

Richardson: “If a police dog dies ...  you know they are killed. There are incidences where we lose police canines, but there’s enough safety measures in place that, in my opinion, it’s just inexcusable if you were to, as a handler, to lose your dog for a heat casualty such as that.”

For Richardson, keeping K9 Alex safe begins long before their shift.

Richardson: “I have to come out quite a bit early to actually turn the vehicle on. The metal, everything inside that vehicle, heats up as well. I’ll turn that on and it’ll be 160 to 170 degrees inside that vehicle. I can tell that by the thermostat that’s inside the digital computer that’s in both the kennel and the front compartment.”

A temperature device  is synced with his mobile phone and Richardson can push a button remotely to open a door to let the dog escape dangerous temperatures.

 

The car is equipped with a computer that will automatically take action well before temperatures reach fatal levels.

Richardson: “The car goes into its own safety mode. The computer is programmed so the rear windows will automatically roll down on their own. There is a pretty powerful exhaust fan on the driver’s side window.”

He laments that some agencies  do not have the safety systems for K9 officers and encourages leaders to protect their dogs that can cost   $12,000 to $25,000 to acquire and more when fully trained.

Richardson: “This is a major investment for any community to maintain and those … that’s my partner, so I need to make sure he’s safe at all times.”

Richardson said temperatures can rise too quickly to leave a person or pet in a car that is not running with the air conditioning on.