New question in death of Jeg the DPS dog: why did heat alarm not work?
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Jul. 23, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - 9 On Your Side has learned that the Department of Public Safety does have heat alarms in place in its K-9 units. This raises a new and obvious question: Why did such a device failed to save the life of Jeg, a police dog who died after being left in a hot cruiser?
DPS isn't yet ready to talk about that.
After the Jeg's death, there was and still is outrage among 9 On Your Side viewers. One was so upset about what happened to Jeg, she did some digging and found technology exists to help keep dogs from being locked in hot cars. She asked KGUN9 to find out what it would take for DPS to start using it--only for KGUN9 to find they already the department already has it.
DPS would not elaborate on its use of K-9 heat alarms so KGUN9 asked other law enforcement agencies how they use them.
The system the Pima County Sheriff’s Department uses in its vehicles is called "K-9 Heat Alarm.” It works using sensors that track the temperature inside a vehicle. When it gets too hot, the horn honks, lights flash, the windows automatically open and a fan starts up to cool the K-9.
Why the noises and lights?
“A lot of times, these vehicles may be left in spots where other deputies are present,” K-9 unit Deputy Erick Maldonado said. “I may not have access to my vehicle. I may be far away from my vehicle. It will alert others that something's going on.”
Maldonado said officers can then move in to help the dog, and a special beeper he carries will also sound. He said the vehicle and the alarm system is constantly running during the work day and shuts down when the vehicle's turned off.
“We always verify the dog's not in the vehicle,” Maldonado said, when asked about what happens when the car is turned off. “The dog is part of your equipment, if you will. Where ever you go, the dog should go.”
These systems are in every sheriff's department K-9 vehicle.
9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen asked Maldonado, “Does this alarm save dogs' lives?” “Absolutely,” Maldonado answered. “It's critical, especially when you work in climate like in Tucson. He gets so hot. The internal temperature of the vehicle can rise very quickly. You just cannot rely on your air conditioning to work 100 percent of the time, every single day of the week.”
Was Jeg in a car equipped with this system? Does the DPS use this life-saving technology and did it somehow fail? There are many questions that will largely remain unanswered for now.
9 On Your Side asked DPS, which responded with an email stating, in general, "those are the systems in place currently. Due to the on going investigative aspect of this incident, we are not going to speak on it until it is concluded."
A DPS spokesman said a representative will be able to answer questions and give interviews on this issue, but only after the investigation is finished.
The most basic alarm system model runs $300, according to one seller's Web site. The more advanced ones cost more than $1,000. That does not include installation.
There is an optional feature on the alarm system to prevent an officer from forgetting about a K-9. It requires the officer to press and hold a button down, confirming the K-9 is out of the car. Otherwise, the alarm system will stay activated. The Pima County Sheriff's Department, as one example, doesn't use that feature.
Tucson police K-9 cars also have systems like the K-9 Heat Alarm.