SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah sheriff’s deputy was charged with aggravated animal cruelty Wednesday after his police dog died in a hot patrol truck.
The dog named Endy died after his handler Jason Whittier “inexplicably” left him secured in the truck after their shift ended at about noon on July 3, Cache County prosecutors said in court documents.
The car was in direct sunlight on a day where high temperature was near 94 degrees, authorities said.
Whittier, 36, took part in family activities after arriving home on the Independence Day weekend. He realized Endy wasn’t in his outside kennel about 11:30 p.m. and discovered the dog’s body in his truck.
Distraught, he called his supervisor and reported what happened. Authorities say Endy died of heat exhaustion.
“This tragedy serves as a stark reminder to never leave children or animals alone inside of a car for any amount of time, as temperatures can quickly rise to a deadly level,” prosecutor Tony Baird said in a statement.
No attorney was immediately listed for Whittier in court records, and a message left at a phone number listed for him was not immediately returned.
Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen said Whittier was placed on leave without pay and will be re-assigned.
Cars that carry canines at the department located about 85 miles north of Salt Lake City are already equipped with safety features for dogs while vehicles are running during shifts.
They’re now working to add end-of-shift safety systems to give verbal warnings and then activate lights and sirens until the dog is safely removed.
“Endy was a beloved member of our organization and our community,” Jensen said in a statement, calling the loss heartbreaking.
If convicted, Whittier could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.