Seven police dogs died of heat exhaution in hot cars this summer. Four of them died when the air conditioners and heat alarms in K-9 patrol cars apparently failed to work.
One of those victims was Wix, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois who was a K-9 officer with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.
Wix died while on duty Aug. 12 at the PGA Championship golf tournament in Kohler, Wisc. His handler, Deputy Austin Lemberger, had left him in the patrol car with the engine and air conditioner running. When Lemberger checked on Wix around 12:30 p.m., the engine and air conditioner were off, and Wix was dead.
Bob Dye, general manager at Ace K9, which manufactures the Hot-N-Pop Pro alarm used in Lemberger’s patrol car, told HLN last month that a challenge in keeping police dogs safe is a device that officers will remember to use.
“These guys, they might have to run from one side of the city to another, from one type of situation to another. They’re under a lot of stress,” Dye said. “It’s human error, and they are devastated when that happens to these dogs.”
But according to the Green Bay Press Gazette, based on an investigation by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, it wasn’t human error that caused Wix’s death. Lemberger had, in fact, remembered to use the Hot-n-Pop Pro. The device, however, failed to work.
When the car’s interior reaches a temperature set by the officer, the Hot-N-Pop device should “activate a S.O.S. horn honk signal, siren and light-bar activation and dual window drop,” according to the Ace K9 website.
In tests by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, the Hot-N-Pop repeatedly failed to work, shutting itself off when the temperature rose inside Lemberger’s patrol car.
Dye has not yet commented on the test results.
To prevent more tragedies in K-9 patrol cars, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office’s investigative report suggested safety improvements such as mounting a fan in the window; leaving the rear windows open if the handler will be away for a long period of time; testing the alarm on a daily basis; and inspecting the air conditioner on a monthly basis from May to August.
Most importantly, at least based on the test results, the report suggested upgrading the heat alarm system.
Photos via Facebook; Brown County Sheriff’s Office