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Police Dog's Tragic Death Leads To Check of Policies, Equipment


http://www.theledger.com/article/20080723/NEWS/807230432/0/news37

Saddened officers across Polk County take steps to be sure K-9s are safe.

By STACY JONES
THE LEDGER


Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.


MULBERRY | Shaken.

Law enforcement officers across Polk County said Tuesday that was their reaction to the heat-related death of a police dog in Mulberry, and each said it caused them to double-check their own policies and equipment to make sure it couldn't happen to them.

The dog, Sam Diesel, died about Monday afternoon when the air conditioner failed while he sat in a squad car outside the Mulberry Police Department headquarters. He had been left there by his handler, Officer Sara Movahedi, for about three hours while she was working on reports.


POLICE DOG SAM DIESEL is shown last October with Mulberry Police K-9 Officer Sara Movahedi when a fund drive paid for the dog. He died Monday in a very hot patrol car.

Diesel's death was the result of "absolutely terrible timing," Chief Lawrence Cavallaro said.

Capt. Thomas Day, a Lakeland Police Department patrol officer, said it would take only a few minutes for a dog to perish if left in a car without air conditioning and the windows up.

LPD's written policy is the same as Mulberry's, which allows officers to keep dogs in air-conditioned cruisers, Day said. But he sent out an e-mail a few weeks ago encouraging members of the K-9 unit to bring their dogs into the police station to save money on gas and help socialize the dogs.

Now, he said, the suggestion could also help prevent a tragedy related to equipment failure.

Maj. Dennis Hoercherl of the Bartow Police Department said that department holds handlers responsible for their dogs, but they are rarely left alone.

When they are left in vehicles, he said, the car is left running with the air conditioner on. And each car has a heat sensor that would warn if there were a problem.

BPD, which has four police dogs, purchased a spare heat sensor in case one malfunctions.

"It's not been brought to my attention that we've had any issues like that," Hoercherl said Tuesday of Mulberry's loss, "and thank God."

Mulberry police Officer Ricky Booker gave a detailed account of Diesel's death while speaking with BayNews 9 on Tuesday.

Booker heard the call to which Movahedi was responding come in on the radio about 3:50 p.m. An 8-foot alligator was trying to cross State Road 37 near a car wash.

As Booker got up to leave, he heard Movahedi's panicked voice on the radio speaker. She needed Animal Control, she screamed from the Mulberry Police Department's parking lot.

As Booker headed outside, Movahedi raced past him toward Cavallaro's office.

"She said, 'The car killed my dog!'" Booker told BayNews 9.

When Booker reached her car, he said, Sam Diesel was lying in the back seat and not breathing.

The chief said Movahedi is taking the loss very hard.

She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I can barely get her to talk to me right now," Cavallaro said.

He said she has been directed to return to work Friday.

When she returns, she will be working with Silvo, a dog that trained at the Polk County Sheriff's Office K-9 academy with former Mulberry police Officer Dave Davis.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Donna Wood said K-9s and their handlers often train together while working toward their required 400 hours of training.

Davis resigned from the department about a week ago, leaving Movahedi as the department's one-woman K-9 unit.

"It was the prudent thing to do," Cavallaro said of Silvo's reassignment. "I have a dog with no handler and a handler with no dog."

Movahedi was in the process of switching vehicles - from a Ford Explorer to a 2004 Crown Victoria. A heat sensor that would have alerted her when the Crown Victoria reached a dangerous temperature had been ordered but had not arrived, Cavallaro said.

Mulberry's police dog policy mirrors that of other departments in the county: Leave the car running with the air conditioner on.

However, Cavallaro said that policy will be revised.

A new policy would require officers to check and report on the dogs every 30 minutes, he said, and he would like dispatchers to enforce the policy by calling officers who fail to report every 30 minutes.

The half-hour checks would be required when the officers are not on a call, Cavallaro said.

For now, the chief said the department is tentatively planning a memorial for Diesel.

"The department would like to have a little something" he said, but plans are pending Movahedi's input.

"The city, the department and the handler have taken a tremendous hit," Cavallaro said.

[ Stacy Jones can be reached at 863-802-7516 or [email protected]. ]
 
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Re: Police Dog's Tragic Death Leads To Check of ..

I feel for the handler, but there's no way I'd trust a car's air conditioning to protect my dog for 3 hours even with the additional battery power of a police cruiser. She should've brought him in.
 

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this happened where i live; this is a very sad situation; sara, the handler is devastated; it is a significant loss for her, the dept and the people of polk county; my heart breaks for the dog who undoubtedly suffered a horrific death

but, this has resulted in an increased awareness of the danger to k9s in cars, even w/the ac running; and ALL local police agencies are reviewing and making changes to their policies to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again

yes, mistakes were made...no arguement there and the diesel paid an incredible price; but his legacy will be the future protection of police k9s; his death will have far reaching implications

my heart goes out to sara; she will have to live with this and her bad decision for the rest of her life
 

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Sad to say this same thing happened in Florida about two years ago. Same problem with a malfunctioning heat sensor. I know the K9 officer and heard that he was totally heartbroken over what happened. Makes you wonder why they didn't change their policies then. And it makes me wonder exactly how many K9s have died this way?
 

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Re: Police Dog's Tragic Death Leads To Check of ..

This astounds me! I can't believe that any dog owner (police or not) would leave a dog in a car for that long. Even if a policy allows it and they leave the air conditioner on. It just sounds irresponsible. And the fact that it was a police officer is worse, they are the ones constantly warning us about leaving our dogs out in the heat. I'm sorry to rant, but I can't stand when an innocent animal has to suffer for human stupidity.
 

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And what good would the proposed new policy requiring checking on the dog every 30 minutes do? The dog would be dead by then. If service dogs are allowed to go everywhere with their owners, why wouldn't police officers be able to take their dogs with them?
 

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Originally Posted By: LvmyGSDAnd what good would the proposed new policy requiring checking on the dog every 30 minutes do? The dog would be dead by then. If service dogs are allowed to go everywhere with their owners, why wouldn't police officers be able to take their dogs with them?
Because some supervisors don't like dogs and won't let them in, well fine then, build a kennel or crate the dog
 

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If the dog is a police dog, it should have the RIGHT to be in the police department building. I feel very bad for the dog and the K9 officer. I see police cars left running all the time, which makes me wonder how much gas they waste? I can only assume they leave it running because it would be quicker if they got an urgent call to just jump in & go?

Three hours is a long time to leave a car running while you do reports, whether there is a dog in there or not. Why wouldn't you just turn the car off & bring the dog in? Hard way to learn a lesson, but everyone makes mistakes and that's how we can all learn from them.
 

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We also lost a dog locally in the same exact manner. As I've posted before, there needs to be a warning system for engine failure or unplanned shut-down on any K9 transport vehicle. There has to be an engineer or inventor out there who can come up with something that would work and would not be cost prohibitive. While every case is different, K9 handlers simply cannot unload their partner in every situation, especially in a situation where heat can kill in minutes.
 

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Originally Posted By: IntuitDog We also lost a dog locally in the same exact manner. As I've posted before, there needs to be a warning system for engine failure or unplanned shut-down on any K9 transport vehicle. There has to be an engineer or inventor out there who can come up with something that would work and would not be cost prohibitive. While every case is different, K9 handlers simply cannot unload their partner in every situation, especially in a situation where heat can kill in minutes.
They make alarm systems for cars that have pagers, and they are not expensive. Heat sensor tied into the alarm reaches temp, circuit closes sets off alarm, not only would it be a audible alarm going off on the car but it would page the officer telling them that theres a problem. To me this would be only used if they were on a call and away from the car. It only takes minutes for that car to reach temperatures that would kill if equipment failed. When the officer is away from the car like this situation, diesel should have been in the barracks with her. Most likely the situation is that they don't like the k-9's in the barracks some tend to be high strung. Or maybe they dont have the facilities for them inside, but he's a officer he's done his time and puts his life on the line without question every day to do his duty and protect his handler. I feel really bad for the handler and even worse for Diesel, what a terrible loss.
 

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There is NO excuse for a dog NOT to be with handler under the conditions stated.Are some subordinate officers left in car while their superiors file reports??absolutely disgusting-either youyr 'only a dog'NOT or your a member of the team!!
 

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My husband went to some sort of event where a K9 handler was demonstrating the alarm system in his car. I gather when the temp went above a certain level an alarm sounded and a fan popped up and started ventilating the vehicle. Sounds like there is some technology out there. It's tragic that there was nothing to save this dog.
 

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I think one of the systems is called "Hot Dog" I priced it once and think it was about 5 - 600$. They notify you if the AC shuts off or otherwise malfunctions.
 

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Having your partner sitting next to you in the barracks, drinking a cool bowl of water is cheaper than anything. For those times when they are out on the streets though definitely there should be SOMETHING as a safety backup.
 

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i think if your dog is a trained canine partner that he should be taken into the building and left to sit by your desk while you work. there is no excuse for leaving a dog in the car for 3 hours. even if the weather permits it's just cruel to leave a dog that long in a car. i'm sorry, but if i were that cop, i would have make other arrangements if i knew that i'd be stuck doing paperwork for 3 hours.
 

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Just very sad for the dog that lost his life in a terrible way and the officer that has to live with it.
 

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Re: Police Dog's Tragic Death Leads To Check of ..

"The car killed my dog"

Puh-Lease! YOU killed your dog by leaving it unattended for 3+ hours in your squad car in the middle of the day in Florida. Get a clue! Did you even once think about checking on him or giving him some fresh water?????

So sad for the dog.... RIP Sam Diesel!!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Re: Police Dog's Tragic Death Leads To Check of ..

Update:

http://www.theledger.com/article/20080726/NEWS/807260381

Mulberry Police Offered New K-9, Help
Department changes policies to protect its dogs after one died Monday.
By Rick Rousos
THE LEDGER


Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 8:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 9:29 a.m.

MULBERRY | In the wake of the death of one of its two police dogs caused by overheating, the city's Police Department has been offered another police dog, two heat alarm systems and plenty of help, the city's public safety director said Friday.

Policies for handling police dogs have also been updated.

The dog that died Monday afternoon, Sam Diesel, was left in a patrol car for about three hours while his handler, Officer Sara Movahedi, was working on reports.

The air-conditioning system failed and the car wasn't equipped with a heat alarm that would have sounded when the temperature rose inside the car. The city was in the process of buying one when Sam Diesel died.

The $12,625 that paid for Sam Diesel and his handling equipment was raised last year by Wal-Mart employees.

Public Safety Director Larry Cavallaro said Friday that a local business has offered to foot the bill for a new dog. He declined to identify the business, saying that the details haven't been finalized.

Cavallaro also said he wanted to arrange a public ceremony to honor both Wal-Mart and the business that will provide another dog.

Movahedi, who returned to work Friday for her first shift after Sam Diesel's death, is now working with Silvo, a dog who worked with former Mulberry police Officer Dave Davis.

The plan, at least for now, is for Movahedi to work with the new dog, Cavallaro said.

The department has been offered two heat-activated car alarms, one from Jupiter-based Radiotronics and one from Miami-based Criminalistics.

Cavallaro said late Friday that the department has received other offers of help and said he needed to return some calls to businesses that have offered the help.

Cavallaro said the city's police dogs will never again sit in a car without a heat alarm and has made that department policy.

He has also added to the policy that handlers must be in the vicinity of the car containing their dog and must physically check on the dog every half-hour.

Movahedi took the loss of her dog extremely hard, Cavallaro said.

But he said Mulberry is a good city and has rallied around her and the department.

Movahedi and Sam Diesel performed numerous demonstrations around Mulberry and were well-known.

Cavallaro said Movahedi received six flower arrangements this week, and she and the department have received dozens of supportive cards and e-mail messages.

Cavallaro said the department is trying to make the best of a tragic situation.

He said the Mulberry police think "Sam Diesel did not die in vain."


[ Rick Rousos can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7514 ]

PS. Here is the link to the Broward County FL K-9 Officer Astro that died in 2006 under similar circumstances.
http://www.local10.com/news/10212430/detail.html?taf=mia
 
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