On a July day where temperatures climbed to 94 degrees Fahrenheit, a K-9 unit named Turbo was left in a police vehicle. He remained there for six hours, where he slowly succumbed to heat stress. When his handler, Master Police Officer David Hurt, returned to the car, he found Turbo with white foam around his mouth. The dog was then taken to the vet, where his condition steadily declined. He began suffering from organ failure, and was put to sleep two days later.
According to CBS News, Officer Hurt left Turbo in the car while he attended a training seminar. He allegedly left the windows open and turned on the air conditioning, but deactivated the heat alarm within the vehicle. Hurt also neglected to check on the dog during his six hour absence, which left Turbo with no opportunities to relieve himself.
This behavior shocked his fellow dog handlers, but Hurt did not try to defend his actions.
“He didn’t give any logical reason,” Police Chief Skip Holbrook said. The chief decided not to press charges on Hurt, only suspending him without pay for five days. “It was a mistake of the heart he will have to deal with the rest of his life,” Holbrook told reporters.
News Conference Regarding K-9 Death Update https://t.co/UET7d3CCX4— Columbia Police Dept (@ColumbiaPDSC) August 23, 2018
Turbo had been with Hurt for seven months, and his children were fond of the dog. According to Associated Press, Hurt is heartbroken and guilty about what happened.
“It’s like losing a partner or a family member,” Chief Holbrook said. “It is devastating.”
He will never be allowed to handle a police dog again, and is also facing suspension from the bomb squad. The police department lost $25,000 worth of investment when they lost Turbo, who was a trained explosive-sniffing dog. However, this is nothing compared to the loss of the dog’s life. Many animals have died slowly in hot cars over the past decade, including a great number of police dogs.
These animals are frequently carted around to perform their jobs as drug-sniffers, bomb-dogs, and search-and-rescue agents. However, this also opens up many opportunities for these dogs to be neglected or forgotten. USA Today reported that at least 12 K-9 units have died from heat-related deaths between the years of 2012 to 2015.
In the three years since that study, only more have suffered painful deaths in patrol cars. While many patrol cars are equipped with air conditioning and alarms to prevent them from overheating, many of these devices are faulty or misused by the handlers. No technology can replace the diligence of the handlers meant to protect these animals, so it’s necessary for these officers to take better care of their companions.