TEXAS --- A Bexar County Sheriff's deputy was placed on administrative leave this week after the two police dogs he cared for were left inside a sweltering county vehicle overnight, killing them, authorities said.
Sheriff's Deputy Steve Benoy, who has been with the office for 23 years, is on a 10-day leave while the department investigates the deaths of the two Belgian Malinois. Although authorities said they believe the dogs suffered from apparent heat exhaustion, Animal Care Services is conducting a necropsy.
|This photo, from 2007, shows Depuy|
Benoy with a K9 Blitz
According to Deputy Chief Ronald “Dale” Bennett, Benoy drove the dogs to his Adkins home, 23 miles east of San Antonio, after he got off work around 2 p.m. Tuesday, just like he did every day.
“He had a routine,” Bennett said.
But Benoy then left town for the night. When he returned home Wednesday, the dogs weren't where he usually keeps them when at home, Bennett said.
Instead, Benoy found the dogs where he had left them: in a county-owned Chevrolet Tahoe fitted with dog kennels. Animal Care Services was called to retrieve the bodies.
Officials did not immediately release the names and ages of the dogs, but Bennett said one was a narcotics dog and the other was assigned to patrol.
“It's just a very tragic accident,” Bennett said, adding that Benoy “is completely devastated.”
[How do you 'forget two large dogs in the back of your vehicle? You supposedly have a 'routine' that you do EVERY SINGLE DAY and you FORGET?! I hope they immediately drug tested this guy. There is something seriously wrong w/his judgment and substance abuse is a possible culprit.]
Benoy, who Bennett said has been a K-9 handler for 13 years and spent 10 years before that on patrol, declined to comment Thursday on the deaths.
The sheriff's office is conducting dual investigations, one to rule out animal cruelty and the other for administrative purposes. Bennett said a decision on any further action against Benoy won't be made until the investigation is complete.
“After the 10 days, it depends on what the investigation reveals,” Bennett said, adding that Benoy is “one of my most dedicated guys.”
According to state law, a person could face a charge of animal cruelty if the offense is committed “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” The charge is a Class A misdemeanor.
Two years ago, a Bexar County K-9 named Duke died of medical complications after he was left in a patrol car for 15 minutes with the air-conditioning running. Duke hadn't been acting normal earlier in the day, officials said at the time, and his handler was making arrangements to take him to the veterinarian. No charges were brought in that case.
Handlers take their animals home overnight, Bennett said, and the county pays for their kennels. Benoy has other dogs of his own and also raises horses, he said. The county's policy regarding care requirements for police dogs was not immediately available Thursday.
Sharon Gregory, the executive secretary of the Veterinary Medical Association of Bexar County who also manages a vet clinic, said handlers work with their police dogs during the day and go home together at night.
“I know they become extremely attached,” she said. “Not only were they companions, but it's also a tremendous financial loss.”
Buying a police canine costs about $2,000, she said, estimating that training, supplies and upkeep can cost close to $40,000.
Although it wasn't clear Thursday exactly what time Benoy discovered the bodies of the dogs, the high temperature both Tuesday and Wednesday was 96, according to the National Weather Service.
In just an hour, the temperature inside a vehicle on an 80-degree day can reach 123 degrees, according to the San Francisco State University's Department of Geosciences.
Veterinarian Donald Vestal said although dogs have a higher normal core temperature than humans — 101.5 is a normal temperature for a dog, he said — they have a harder time controlling their body temperature.
“Dogs are able to expel the heat from their bodies by panting,” Vestal said, “but they don't have many sweat glands; so they don't sweat efficiently. They have a much tougher time in hot situations.”
As a dog's body heats up, their ability to regulate their temperature weakens, he said. At 106 degrees, a dog's brain cells begin to fail, and cellular death soon follows.
Vestal said in San Antonio's hot, humid weather, heat exhaustion in pets is frequent. But of the 15 cases he sees in one year, Vestal said he typically saves 80 percent. The most effective way to cool down a dog suffering heat exhaustion is by an ice bath or cool water, he said.
Gregory said similar types of pet deaths aren't uncommon. Just last week, she said, she arrived at her clinic to a box of dead puppies outside the door.
“I'm sure they didn't mean to kill the puppies, but because they were left in a box with no water while we were closed, all six puppies died before we got there,” she said. “It's very serious in this kind of weather.”
(Mysanantonio.com - July 27, 2012)