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Protecting our Police K-9s from Partners


Few things infuriate me more than animals left in cars. It’s particularly frustrating when it’s a dog who was left behind by their human partner they both protect and serve.

It’s happened again. This time, the victim was a 10-year-old black Labrador named Nyx. His partner left Nyx in a police car for over six hours while he trained another officer. The car was parked directly in front of a security camera at the entrance to the police station.

Zachary Lee Miller, the senior officer, was training Jake Bigelow. Miller said he “yelled” at Bigelow for not turning on the air conditioning. But, really, both officers should be brought up on charges. The dog was left unattended for six hours in a car that was running, but did not have the air conditioning on. The security camera staring at this dog while dozens of officer likely passed by, ignoring the situation.

Both officers are still employed with the Mills Police Department, but Miller is currently on leave for “unrelated personal reasons.” Miller has pleaded “not guilty” to the misdemeanor crime of animal cruelty.

This is not a singular event. Here’s a brief look at just a few events that actually made the news and their outcomes:


Vegas and Hades

Two K-9s died after being left in police car overnight in July 2012. According to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office, the two Belgian Malinois, Vegas and Hades, were found dead from heat exposure after being “inadvertently” left inside the vehicle overnight.

Deputy Steve Benoy, was placed on administrative leave as the Animal Care Services and the BCSO investigate the incident. Benoy was just recently (Feb, 2014) indicted in the deaths for animal cruelty. He could face a year in prison if convicted.


In June 2010, a tan Labrador named Duke died in the Bexar County offiver Ebony of that year, a tan Labrador named Duke died in Bexar County deputy Ebony Jones’ patrol vehicle. Deputies later determined the 5-year-old dog died from preexisting medical issues. Well, of course they did…


Texas lawmakers had proposed a bill that would require heat alarms to be installed in all K-9 vehicles by 2011. However, the bill was never assigned to a committee. The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office had told KENS 5 in 2010, shortly after the first accidental K-9 death, that they would be installing the alarms in all five of their K-9 vehicles. According to a story by AZ Family, the sheriff’s office would not confirm whether or not the heat alarms were ever installed.


This bloodhound was one of the first in the program for tracking missing children, but she died trapped in the back of a hot squad car when her partner, Officer Jeff Gore left her in the vehicle for hours.  Ironically, Gore created the K-9 unit 11-years ago and raised Liberty from a pup.



Spartacus, a 3-yr-old Belgian Malinois, was found dead after his own partner, Officer Chad Berry, forgot the dog in the patrol car.  Pickens Sheriff’s spokesperson Kris Stancil said that it is possible the police dog was left in Berry’s patrol car for about six hours from 3 to 9 p.m. According to Brittany Duncan, public information officer for Woodstock Police, Officer Berry was suspended without pay for 80 hours (10 days), removed from the K-9 unit, reassigned to traffic enforcement and, fined $325 for violation of a county ordnance (cruelty to animals).



Mercer County Deputy Chad Fortkamp left his K-9 partner Zak in his vehicle while finishing up paperwork in the office. While it was initially stated that Zac died from a prexisting heart condition, the K-9 Unit veterinarian stated that even a healthy dog could not have survived that heat. Deputy Fortkamp was suspended without pay for 45 days.




MCAC decided not to press charges against Officer Jesse Dorantes, who left his service dog in a hot SUV in April, 2014. The dog spent seven hours in the vehicle, which was parked at the AZ State Prison complex in Buckeye. Dorantes reports that he “forgot” the dog in the SUV due to having to care for a son who was ill. Dorantes left Ike in the back of the SUV while cleaning out his kennel but forgot the Belgian Malinois was in there when he went home in his personal vehicle, according to the department’s criminal investigative report.Later that day, Dorantes contacted a sergeant and asked him to check on Ike to see if he was safe and to make sure he had put the dog back into his kennel. The sergeant found the K-9 dead in the locked cage inside the SUV. The vehicle’s windows were rolled up and there was no food or water.The 7-year-old dog was inside the SUV from 6:45 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. during which time the outside temperature reached approximately 98 degrees, according to the report.


In 2007, Chandler Sgt. Mike Lovejoy “forgot” his Belgian Malinois for 12 hours. The drug-sniffing K-9 died from heat exhaustion. The sergeant was acquitted of animal abuse charges.

Lovejoy sued Maricopa county for $800,000 in a civil suit stating his rights had been violated after the courts found that his actions did not “amount to recklessness under the legal standard in Arizona”. The case was later settled for $175,000 (in Lovejoy’s favor).


A drug-sniffing Belgian Malinois had to be euthanized after Korey Lankow, a Department of Public Safety officer, left his 6-yr-old K-9 partner in his squad car in 2012. After an hour passed, Lankow realized that he’d forgotten Jeg in the back of the other squad car. In a panic, he raced back to headquarters, where he found Jeg overcome by heatstroke. The Tuscon Fire Department was called to respond, and in the meantime, Lankow tried desperately to cool Jeg down with water and ice. Pima County officials did not pursue felony charges against the Department of Public Safety officer.

The Arizona Daily Star reports Lankow will have to take a half-day course on animal care and laws and pay a $200 fine. Tucson City Prosecutor Baird Greene tells the Daily Star that anyone in a similar position would have received the same deal.

Maricopa County Attorney has decided not to prosecute because there is little chance that Dorantes would be convicted. He said he came to that conclusion after reviewing a 2007 case involving Chandler police officer Thomas Lovejoy and his police dog, Bandit.


Indiana Abuse Video

A Hammond, Indiana officer is under fire for abuse of his K-9 partner.  Video shot by a citizen shows the officer hanging the dog by his leash and striking him repeatedly. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. issued a statement: “Anybody who loves dogs as much as I do is always saddened and shocked anytime you hear of a dog’s abuse. When you find out it happened with an employee of yours, it makes it that much more shocking and disturbing. Please know that the Hammond PD does not condone that type of behavior of any of it’s officers, nor is it tolerated in this administration.” He went back on his words, however, when the officer was found innocent of wrongdoing during the investigation.

“In a statement released Monday, Chief John Doughty said the officer acted in accordance to training during a high-risk traffic stop in which the dog successfully sniffed out illegal contraband inside the vehicle. A separate review of the incident by Vohne Liche Kennels found the same thing.” See for yourself. The video is posted below (explicit language)

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Primo was a 6-yr-old Belgian Malinois who died in 2009 after being left in a cruiser by his handler,  officer Jason Lewis. The dog was admitted to the veterinarian clinic with a temperature of 109.8 degrees according to a necropsy report from the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Photos show that Primo destroyed the police cruiser seats in a desperate attempt to escape the vehicle. Primo received emergency treatment, but died after suffering three seizures.

Officer Jason Lewis was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, while Sgt. Randy Lewis, a former supervisor in the New Orleans Police Department’s K-9 unit, was charged with malfeasance in office, according to documents filed at Criminal District Court. A year after District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office dropped charges against a New Orleans police officer in the death of a police dog, an Orleans Parish grand jury has indicted Sgt. Randy Lewis.

The Times-Picayune reports the panel Thursday indicted Lewis on one count of malfeasance in office in the death of Phantom, a police dog, while Lewis worked a private, paid detail at the closed Charity Hospital.

Lewis is accused in connection with the 2009 incident in which Phantom fell down an elevator shaft and died. Lewis claimed in an incident report that he was on duty and involved in a training exercise when the accident occurred.

If convicted, Lewis faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Primo’s death occurred around the same time as two other K-9 deaths in the same department. Phantom died during training exercises after he fell down an elevator shaft. During the search training exercise, the dog was able to squeeze through a small opening in an elevator door. Phantom was on a long leash, held by a handler, but the K-9 officers were not able to save him after he dropped into the shaft, Young said. The ring that held the leash to the dog’s collar snapped, allowing the dog to fall, he said.

Carlos, a 14-yr-old dog,  died from heartworm disease.

Dogs Killed in Line of Fire

Portland, Oregon – Mick: Protected his human partner in shootout

After responding to a burglary call on April 16, 2014, Officer Jeff Dorn took two shots to the legs during pursuit of suspect, Paul Robb, Steven Young and Jemaell Riley. Dorn’s police dog, Mick, took one fatal bullet. Hundreds paid their respects to this hero dog who gave his life to protect his partner.

The three suspects in the shooting, including Ropp, were apprehended and you can read more about how dangerous these idiots were in this much less-biased article.

Laws in Effect

Harming our four-legged partners in defense is finally now a federal offense. The Federal Law Enforcement Animal Protection Act went into effect in 2000. Under the law, anyone convicted of purposely assaulting, maiming, or killing a federal law enforcement animal (such as a horse or a dog) could face a fine of at least $1000 and spend up to ten years in prison.

Prior to this law, animals were covered by a variety of state and local laws. The hope is that this new law will deter criminals from targeting police animals. Prior to the law taking effect, criminals were known to place “bounties” on police animals, particularly drug-sniffing dogs.

Unfortunately, the key word is “purposely” and that allows for a lot of leeway. Including animals killed by their partners when they are left in hot cars.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to increase the charges against a person who kills a police dog or horse in the line of duty. Currently a Class A misdemeanor, the crime will be a Class E felony when the law takes effect Nov. 1.

“Police animals go where others will not in order to keep law enforcement officials and all New Yorkers safe from harm, and it’s a tragedy when one is killed,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This new law will hold the guilty parties accountable and offer better protections for these highly trained animals who are important members of our law enforcement community.”

Sentences Passed on K9 Killers

Fargo – Killer receives 35 years

in 2011, a police dog named Fargo was killed by 24-yr-old Maurice Anton McCreary who fired seven shots during an armed robbery.

After hearing emotional pleas from Fargo’s fellow officers, Judge Robert Hood sentenced McCreary to 5 years for killing Fargo and 30 years for the attempted murder of the human officers.

In exchange for a guilty plea, an armed robbery charge and attempted murder charge was dropped. Had he gone to trial, he would have faced life in prison without parole.

Magnum – Killer receives 12 years

In 2012, K-9 Magnum was killed in Anderson Indiana by Joseph Turner, who stated he was suffering from drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq. Mr. Turner received a twelve year prison sentence for shooting the animal.

Bo – Killer receives 20 years

In 2007, Clinton Hernandez was sentenced to 20 years for killing Bo, a 9-yr-old Belgian Malinois.

Kane – Killer receives 4 years

In Clarke County, Washington in 2011, H. Keegan Graves was sentenced to four years for stabbing to death K-9 Kane, an eight year old Dutch Sheppard.

Melnick Case

The judge in the Melnick case felt so strongly that he wished he could have given him more time but stated that his hands were tied.

Tanja – Killer’s trial pending

Steven Lee Waldemer shot of Menlo, Georgia shot and killed 2-yr-old K-9 officer Tanja with a shotgun as deputies attempted to serve a warrant for aggravated sexual battery. The dog’s handler, Deputy Sheriff Donnie Brown also suffered injuries, but has made a full recovery.  Ironically, donations for a bulletproof dog vest came in the same day that Tanja was killed.

While it is too late for her, we hope that every animal will receive a vest soon.

Rocco: Police dog stabbed to death by chase suspect in Pittsburgh

Recently, a K9 was stabbed to death by a suspect.

“The canine officer made his way to the suspect’s location to pull the canine off the suspect and noticed the suspect armed with a knife and had been actively stabbing the canine,” said Oklahoma City police Capt. Dexter Nelson. That’s when the dog’s partner opened fire and killed the suspect on the spot.

Ms. Richard said Rocco would be laid to rest with honors. “This is a police officer; it just happens to be a canine,” she said.

Police said Rocco, who joined the force in 2008, suffered from a 3-inch-deep stab wound that lacerated muscle and his kidney, causing major blood loss. While officers awaited word on Rocco’s condition, homicide detectives obtained a warrant charging the man accused of stabbing the dog and wounding several officers.

John Rush, a 21-yr-old despicable creature with a long history of violent crimes, faces felony charges of abusing a police animal, disarming a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault, burglary and misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, resisting arrest and possessing instruments of a crime. He was being held without bond in the Allegheny County Jail. The felony three charge of abuse of a police animal stood whether or not Rocco died, District attorney’s office spokesman Mike Manko said.

“The canine, from the officer’s standpoint, is considered an officer, but from a legal standpoint he’s not. He’s a tool or a weapon used by the officer,” said Nelson

Ape – FBI K9 Killed in action

In March 2013, Kurt Myers, 64, killed four people and wounded two others during a shooting spree in Herkimer County, New York. He also killed Ape, an FBI K-9.

Major – Struck by auto

K9 Major was struck and killed by a commercial vehicle as his handler assisted a disabled motorist on Route 34, near Sodom Lane. Major had graduated from the Connecticut State Police 166th Patrol Dog Class one month prior to being struck. No charges are pending.

Ike – Struck by Auto

K9 Ike was struck and killed by a vehicle near the intersection of Race Track Road and Route 50 at approximately 10:00 pm. His handler had made a traffic stop of another vehicle and was speaking to the driver when K9 Ike alerted to something outside of the patrol car and jumped out of an open window. Ike was then struck by a passing vehicle. K9 Ike had served with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office for three years. Read more: http://www.odmp.org/k9/1529-k9-ike#ixzz3BX22UzSO

I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is, but it’s time that something gets done to save these animals.

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