MONTVILLE TWP., Ohio- Many police and sheriff's offices across Northeast Ohio are using technology in their K9 cruisers that can help alert officers when the temperature of the car reaches dangerous levels.
The technology is not new, but it was not installed on the Montville Township cruiser used by Sgt. Brett Harrison when his K9 partner, Beny, died on September 28 after having been left unattended in the cruiser for more than four hours.
According to Montville police, Sgt. Harrison arrived at the station at 10:54 a.m. and began working on paperwork. At 3:13 p.m., Harrison returned to the cruiser and discovered the dog lying lifeless in the rear passenger compartment’s kennel.
Police said Harrison didn’t leave the windows open and the cruiser was turned off; the temperature at the time Harrison arrived at the station was 69 degrees and it was 79 degrees when the dog was discovered.
The department said Benny died of injuries consistent with heat stroke.
Among the departments that has technology to protect its K9s is the Summit County Sheriff's Office.
Inspector Bill Holland said each of the agencies three K9 cruisers is outfitted with the 'Hot Dog System.'
"It has a thermostat in it and when it reaches a certain temperature, you can set it to whatever temperature you like. The back windows roll down just a little bit and fans turn on back where the K9 is and a page is sent to the officer's belt. At that point they are notified that the car has heated up and the deputy can return to their cruiser and address their K9," said Holland.
Holland said on many of the calls a K9 officer may not be needed and stays in the car.
Erie County Sherrif Paul Sigsworth has a similar system installed on his K9 cruiser, in which the air conditioning duct work has also been modified to direct cool air to the K9 compartment.
Sigsworth said their system triggers when the interior temperature of the car reaches 90 degrees.
When that happens, the cruiser's back windows roll down, a fan in the K9 compartment starts to blow and an alarm is sent to the handler.
In addition, all of the windows are tinted to try and keep the interior of the cruiser cool and the cars also have a water dish for the K9.
Perkins Township Police Chief Ken Klamar said his K9 cruiser has a system called 'hot and pop' which also triggers fans, drops the cruiser's windows and triggers the car's horn to alert the K9 officer.
Sandusky Police Chief John Orzech said his department also has temperature-controlled cooking fans in its K9 unit and officers are required to bring their K9 partners indoors with them when they are at the police station.
The systems can cost between $400 to over $2,000 depending on how and when they are installed and if they are installed with other features.
Holland said Summit County paid $1,400 to have theirs installed when the vehicles for their three K9 deputies were ordered.
Grice said Montville Township's K9 cruiser has been passed down from other K9 officers and did not have the technology installed but he told FOX 8 News the department plans to install it in the future.
"Obviously we are going to review our training and equipment procedures internally to make sure to try to do the best we can to make sure this never happens," said Grice.