Southaven K-9 dies after being left in officer's hot car

Published: Aug. 18, 2017 at 1:57 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2017 at 6:28 PM CDT
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SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC) - A Southaven police dog died after it was left in an officer's hot car.

Southaven Police Department Chief Steve Pirtle said the officer will not be charged with a crime. The officer remains on the force and is not on administrative leave.

Gunner, a 6-year-old mixed Labrador, spent two hours locked in a police cruiser Tuesday while his handler was inside filling out paperwork. Gunner died in the car from heat-related injuries.

Gunner worked to sniff out narcotics. He'd been with a new handler for three weeks.

Southaven Police Department is not releasing the name of Gunner's handler.

Chief Pirtle said Gunner's handler made the devastating discovery when he went to let the dog out for a bathroom break.

"When he went to the kennel which is inside their building he noticed he wasn't there and that's when he found him in the car," Chief Pirtle said.

The unresponsive narcotics K-9 was rushed to the vet, but couldn't be revived.

A local vet said after more than an hour in the vehicle with Tuesday's temperatures, it could have been more than 135 degrees inside.

SPD said the officer's car was turned off and did not have the safety equipment designed to prevent anyone being left in a hot car installed.

"If the engine stops and the AC quits blowing for any reason and the heat reaches up to around 80 degrees or so, it sets off the blue lights and sirens on the car," Chief Pirtle said.

SPD is investigating why the safety equipment was not already installed.

Chief Pirtle said the handler had a spotless record up to this point with the department. Chief Pirtle said he would be handing out a disciplinary action following a September board meeting.

"He was devastated, I'll say that," Chief Pirtle said. "And it still affects him today."

SPD has had K-9 officers since the 1980s. This is the first one to ever die on the force.

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