CREATED Feb 8, 2013
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - What went wrong that hot July day in Tucson? An officer forgot his K-9 partner in a sweltering patrol car, and veterinarians ultimately euthanized the dog. Which specific parts of the system failed and how could the death have been prevented? The state agency in charge remained silent during its investigation. Until now.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Korey Lankow forgot his partner, Jeg, in a cruiser at the agency’s Tucson headquarters in mid July. KGUN9 News checked that day and the outside temperature at the time was 97 degrees. Reports showed Jeg was in the vehicle for at least one hour and 45 minutes.
After months of investigation, DPS tells KGUN9 it’s has made changes -- across all of Arizona -- to keep another K-9 from dying.
“We're making sure that every vehicle that a K-9 officer ever uses will have that heat alarm system installed,” said Officer Carrick Cook, department spokesman.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department showed KGUN9 a heat alarm's capabilities in July. When it gets too hot inside a vehicle, the horn honks, lights flash, windows roll down and a fan starts up.
Cook said the cruiser Jeg was in -- a loaner "swing" car -- did not have an alarm. Every K-9-ready car now does.
Cook also explained when officers found Jeg, the Tucson dispatch center did not immediately have the phone number of a veterinarian to call.
“Unfortunately, it just took a little bit of time for our dispatch to get that information and actually had to call one of our K-9 handlers to obtain that information,” he explained. “Instead of being able to directly contact them and expedite getting that dog -- getting Jeg -- to the hospital.”
Cook did not know how long the delay was.
Dispatchers now have a list of numbers.
“They know exactly who to call instead of having to make several calls that may delay or ultimately lead to a worst case scenario where a dog does die in the future,” he said.
Finally, every officer that works with a K-9 has received training on new procedures, Cook said, like never putting a dog in a car without a heat alarm.
Keen asked Cook, “When it comes to preventing another K-9 death, in general, what do you say to the public?” “I can ensure the public that this is not something that we have taken lightly,” he answered. “I know for a fact that Officer Lankow feels absolutely horrible about this. He's not proud of what happened. But we are making sure that we take every step possible -- and that's why this has taken so long -- as we exhaust every route of possibility. We're going to make sure that this is something that will never happen again.”
DPS would not say Friday how it will punish Lankow, if at all. The agency expects those records will be made public in mid-March after all legal proceedings are done. It reported Lankow is on the job and has not been paired with a new K-9.