The temperature inside the vehicle had climbed to 126 degrees.
On Sunday afternoon, the deputy who handles “Blitz” had work to do inside station, so he left the department’s three-year-old Belgian Malinois locked in its one-year-old K-9 SUV, with the air conditioner running.
In the world of police dogs, that is considered standard practice.
But when the deputy came back to the car more than an hour later, he found Blitz dead, apparently from heat exhaustion. The air conditioner was blowing hot air.
“It’s just horrible,” said Montgomery County Undersheriff Rick Robbins. “The deputy is not doing well.”
The SUV was equipped with a temperature safety device designed especially for police K-9 vehicles. The device is supposed to go off whenever the interior temperature climbs above 90 degrees.
“An alarm system activates, the back windows go down, an additional fan turns on to cool off the inside of the vehicle,” Robbins said. “That is what is supposed to happen.”
But on Sunday, that did not happen. The owner of the company that makes the warning system, Ace K9, flew in from Florida Thursday afternoon to try to find out what went wrong.
“We’ve been doing this for 30 years,” said company owner John Johnston. “We did have one other incident a while back under different circumstances, but we’ve got over 10,000 units on the road, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Johnston said none of those failures is the fault of the handler or the sheriff’s department.
While he is not sure what did go wrong, he said he's been told the temperature warning unit sent out a false alarm the day before Blitz died.
The dog, his training, and the K-9 vehicle were all donated to the department last summer by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.