K-9s deserve special attention

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 28, 2023

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Police departments all over America, even small ones, have added canines to their force. It’s an enormous responsibility, and most human officers are devoted to their assigned dogs.

There are two major responsibilities. First is the treatment and care of the dog, and second is the critical decision to release the dog to attack.

We have seen and read about failures, and we hope that police departments use those incidents as an opportunity to learn from failure and improve so they do not reoccur.

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Rowan County, North Carolina, has a population of about 150,000 and is located on the northern border of Charlotte. The county sheriff’s department has a Facebook page, something police departments have used with considerable success in bolstering their image in the public’s eye.

If you scroll through the pages of their feed, you will find photos of different K-9s on their force. Back in May, they announced a fundraiser to purchase “Mayflower,” a tracking bloodhound. The sheriff’s department has six K-9 teams, and various members of those teams are featured on Facebook.

But nowhere could I find any mention of “Kantor.”

“Kantor” was a K-9 member of the Rowan County sheriff’s department until April 4 when he died while off duty. Three months later, the sheriff announced in a press release that “Kantor” had died at the home of his handler while the officer was out of town.

After a three-month investigation, which seems an inordinate amount of time, the department said the dog died of heat-related injuries after being locked in the deputy’s patrol car by his 17-year-old offspring who was home alone with the dog. “Kantor” became agitated, and the young person placed the dog in its kennel inside the air-conditioned patrol vehicle, started the engine and closed the door. Supposedly this helps calm an anxious K-9.

“At some point the engine of the vehicle shut off, causing the heat level inside the vehicle to rise. Our investigation revealed that at the time Kantor was placed in the vehicle, the air conditioning was running. The vehicle dealership has not been able to determine why the SUV’s engine shut off,” deputies said.

The teenager failed to turn on a K-9 protection system in the vehicle that would have sounded an alarm if the vehicle got too hot.

The sheriff refused to identify the deputy or provide any further information.

It’s a sad story, for sure. Sometimes forgotten in the dynamics of police work and K-9s is that the dogs are officers as well. They deserve to be treated like they are a member of the force, not a spare tire to be ignored or left behind.

They also deserve some dignity when they become the victim.

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com