Monday, July 27, 2009

A hot dog boils to death in a police car

A desperate dog trapped in a NOPD car this past May destroyed the interior in a futile attempt to escape. Photo by the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

I’ve worked hard to build up a tolerance for viewing horrific scenes of animal neglect and cruelty. If I didn’t thicken my skin, I couldn’t do my job writing about these chilling subjects. I’d simply have to stop, or fall apart.

But despite all that I see and read, there are still times when a story makes me recoil with sheer horror. Tears prick to my eyes, my heart starts hammering, and I feel physically sick to my stomach.

Today’s blog update was one of those moments. For days, I dreaded opening the link emailed to me by Shelly Patton, information technology manager for the Louisiana SPCA. Her shelter is helping to investigate a case of neglect that is typical in some ways. But highly unusual in another.

It’s the identity of the perpetrator that makes this incident of negligence noteworthy. He’s a New Orleans police officer from the K-9 unit. Someone hired to serve and protect. Someone who should have known better.

On May 27, officer Jason Lewis left his 6-year-old Belgian Malinois partner Primo locked up in his police car. Temperatures in New Orleans that day peaked at 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a desperate attempt to escape the sweltering torture chamber he found himself locked into, Primo ripped apart the interior of the vehicle, reducing its seats to shredded yellow foam.

By the time Primo was admitted to a veterinary clinic, his temperature had reached a shocking 109.8 degrees. Before he died, he collapsed and endured three seizures. Normal body temperature for a dog is 100 to 102.5 degrees.

"Those photos confirm the horrible and excruciating death this animal suffered," said Rafael Goyeneche, the president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans. "Police officers are supposed to treat these dogs as their partners."

The necropsy -- the animal version of an autopsy -- determined Primo's likely cause of death was "shock due to heat stress," according to the report compiled by the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

Primo wasn't the only dog to die in the care of the NOPD K-9 unit recently. Around the same time period, a canine named Phantom didn't survive the fall down an elevator shaft during a training exercise at a hospital. And a police dog named Carlos died from heartworms, a serious but treatable disease.

Thankfully, Lewis won’t be tasked with caring for another police dog. On June 21, he was transferred out of the K-9 unit to another district.

The NOPD has launched its own internal investigation through the Public Integrity Bureau, according to spokesman Bob Young. And the Orleans Parish district attorney's office is considering charging Lewis under Louisiana’s cruelty to animals statute.

Just like a human police officer, Primo risked his life to protect ours. And in exchange, he suffered a painful, terrifying death at the hands of his guardian. If the officer couldn’t even protect his dog, how could he be expected to protect us?

The word “Primo” means the best of its kind, and no doubt this police dog was one of the best of his breed.

Now it's time to get him the best justice.

I've seen dogs locked up in hot cars on many occasions. People run into the grocery store for a few minutes thinking their dogs will survive. This card is handed out at Washington State car dealerships warning people of the dangers. It can be placed under an offender's windshield wipers.

When temperatures have reached only the low 80s outdoors, your car will become a furnace in minutes, even with the windows cracked.
  • In 10 minutes, the inside of your car can reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or hotter.
  • By 30 minutes, it will have heated up to 120 degrees.
  • At 110 degrees Fahrenheit, your animal may have only minutes to live -- heatstroke will result in brain damage and a horrendous death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This story should be sent to tv stations across the nation. Maybe the weather people could do a little blurb warning people of these dangers. There really are some folks out there who don't know any better and if having this knowledge saves one life, it would be a very good thing..