It has happened again. Another dog handler had made a poor decision and, as a result, his K9 is dead.
time it happened in Richland County, South Carolina - a NON-ASCT agency.
The handler had just returned, a few weeks
earlier, from his basic canine course with his new 17 month old K9. For the handler to be on the street with the dog shows
that he had apparently graduated from the handling school.
While observing another K9 team doing maintenance training,
the handler ‘s dog was closed in his patrol unit and as the temperature rose K9 Atilla began to bake. The poor dog likely
barked for release from the heating car, only to be ignored as just wanting to join the training. Atilla certainly panted
excesively and gasped for cool air as the South Carolina ambient temperatures drove the interior of the car to upwards of
120 degrees F. As the temperature raised - it is physiologically active medicine that the K9 started to panic. His lack of
oxygen and ever growing internal heat caused his body to offer one last panic stricken effort to escape from the oven like
vehicle. The dog began to dig and scramble - barking furiously to get out of the car. But his handler likely didn’t
notice - assuming the observant participant role, enjoying his view of another K9 being trained. In the car, Atilla had faught
for his life for the last time. The heat spiked and the dog’s body could no longer protect him. He had nothing left.
Atilla’s brain began to overheat and literally bake in the pressurized heat of the patrol car. The brain shut down to
try and save itself. The K9 lost conscientious. The brain continued to cook, as the lack of oxygen deprived the entire body
of life. Let’s avoid sugar coating the situation to make the handler feel better. Atilla died a slow, agonizing death.
handler has been suspended, without pay, while the agency investigates the situation. The Patrol car had not yet been fitted
with a heat sensor device.
Why did this happen? Why does this occur every year , across the nation. Why are handler’s
making ridiculously idiotic, wantonly neglectful decisions? My thoughts are simple. TRAINING!
I, and I am sure you,
would expect any adult, particularly a police officer, to have enough common sense to make certain that his K9 is protected
from overheating. But that isn’t the case in many situations. Trust me, I have taught more handling schools than I can
count. And I have encountered a load of dog handlers who don’t have the natural common sense of protecting the K9 in
the heat. It’s not that these handlers are idiots - most just don’t have the experience with dogs to realize just
how hot a car gets for a dog. And handlers frequently forget that dogs are basically wearing a fur coat - year round!
we may ask - what about children? Surely the handler knows that kids die in cars when the windows are up and the air is off?
Indeed handlers understand this. But again, many people don’t make the connection between dogs and children. Somehow
dogs aren’t as important, in some eyes, as children. Some handlers even think that somehow a dog can take the heat.
Mostly though, handlers do know that the heat will kill the dog but aren’t trained well enough to make safety a topmost
For me, I blame the trainer of this Richland County, SC K9 handler. I don’t know who trained the handler.
But whoever it is should be held at partial fault for this sad situation. The trainer should have drilled the handler on safety
of heat reduction to a great extent. Something he obviously didn’t do.
If I were a member of the Richland County
administration, I would demand that Atilla be replaced by the trainer (without charge) and I would terminate the handler.
This handler was not properly trained to avoid such a disaster. Trainers are responsible for teaching. Why was this handler
not properly trained? Maybe the information was shared. Maybe the trainer did indeed give a brief cover of the safety. I doubt
it - but maybe. Well, if so - the handler wasn’t forced to follow those safety rules - during the class . Otherwise,
heat recognition and safety would have been engrained in the handler and K9 Atilla would be alive to see his 18th
THANKFULLY, I HAVE NEVER HAD A K9 HANDLER KILL HIS DOG IN A HOT CAR. And if it should occur - my wrath would
be more than imaginable. I think my students realize this wrath and thus follow a strict protocol of K9 protection.
- for all those who are reading this and don’t know what to do to protect the K9 from heat stroke - here are the ASCT
requirements taught in basic handling classes.
ASCT handlers - these are a reminder for you - SAFTEY FIRST!
- ASCT trainers are encouraged to copy these down and implement them into your training.
A HEAT SENSOR DEVICE - BUT KEEP IN MIND THAT THESE DEVICES ARE NOT FAILSAFE - THEY DO MALFUNTION - OFTEN. SO FOLLOW ALL THE
RULES - ALL THE TIME.
2. ALWAYS KEEP A CROSS VENTILATION - WHEN PARKED, KEEP WINDOWS DOWN AT LEAST ¾ WAY - EVEN
IN COOL WEATHER.
3. PARK IN SHADE WHENEVER POSSIBLE - EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO WALK FARTHER.
4. WHEN PARKED IN WARM
WEATHER - ALWAYS KEEP WATER AVAILABLE IN THE CAGE.
5. NEVER - EVER - EVER - ALLOW THE K9 TO BE LEFT UNATTENDED IN THE
BACK OF THE PATROL CAR FOR MORE THAN 20 MINUTES WITHOUT CHECKING ON BOTH THE DOG AND THE TEMPERATURE.
6. KEEP THE AIR-CONDITIONING
ON HIGH. BUT KEEP THE WINDOWS DOWN. POP THE HOOD OF THE UNIT TO KEEP THE VEHICLE FROM OVERHEATING DURING STANDING PARKING.
protect you dogs. They are helpless without you. Get off your butts and check your dogs - often.