California K-9 dies of heat-related illness after being left in handler’s patrol car

LONG BEACH, Calif. – A Long Beach K-9 was found dead last week after being left in his handler’s car in what police on Friday characterized as an unfortunate accident.

K-9 Ozzy was inside the officer’s department issued K-9 vehicle when his handler found him dead at approximately 3:40 p.m. on Aug. 4, according to a statement from Long Beach Police Department public information officer Arantxa Chavarria.

The police dog and the handler were both off-duty at the time, Chavarria told KTLA in an emailed statement.

It was unclear how long Ozzy had been left in the car before he died. The Los Angeles Times reported that mid-afternoon temperatures that day in Long Beach were between 81 and 84 degrees.

The K-9 was examined by a veterinarian, and preliminary results indicated his death was heat-related, police said.

“This unfortunate incident was not intentional, preliminarily we believe this was an accident and we are taking all the necessary steps to avoid this happening in the future,” Chavarria wrote in the statement.

Ozzy’s death was first announced by the department in a Facebook post on Friday morning.

Dozens left comments thanking Ozzy for his service; some reacted angrily over the death.

“I’m sorry, but there is NO excuse for this,” one woman wrote. “A dog is like a child. It depends on its human guardian for appropriate care and safety. What’s more, this beautiful German Shepherd was trained to “protect and serve.” He would have defended his partner to the death.”

The K-9 was one of two police dogs who worked for the department’s Drug Investigations Section and was profiled by the Signal Tribune last October. By then, Ozzy had been with the agency for five years, and the two dogs combined had recovered more than $25 million in cash and drugs.

He had also assisted other agencies, including the FBI, The Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

In the wake of the police dog’s death, the department initiated an immediate bureau review into the incident, including looking at the equipment, circumstances and its protocols.

Police believe the fail/safe equipment inside that vehicle that is supposed to generate an alert may have not been working.

All K-9 handlers are checking their heat system controller before each shift as part of their daily protocols.

“Once this review is completed, the department will assess this tragic accident and ensure it does not happen again,” Chavarria said.

No additional information was immediately released by police.

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