The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that its K-9 unit has been suspended, after two of its dogs were left in the back of a county car by their handler.
Both dogs died of heatstroke.
Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said Deputy Steve Benoy had accidentally left the two dogs in his unit when he left for an overnight trip.
Benoy remains on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation.
The sheriff acknowledged the truth of a recent KSAT report, in which it was reported the department had two heat alarm systems, purchased in 2010.
The systems are designed to alert officers when their units get too hot, while automatically lowering car windows and turning on fans.
Despite having two such systems two years ago, the sheriff acknowledged that a lack of administrative oversight and technical know-how prevented them from being installed.
Ortiz said the systems likely would not have saved the two dogs, but acknowledged they would have had a better chance to survive.
Four new Chevy Tahoes will be installed with the latest heat alarm systems, Ortiz said, designed to turn on the air conditioning in units that get too hot, along with calling four designated telephone numbers with alerts to the situation.
Officers in the K-9 unit will also undergo more extensive training in the near future.
The K-9 unit will be suspended until those changes are put into place.
Deputy Chief Dale Bennet, in charge of the BCSO’s patrol unit and, subsequently, all K-9 operations, has been reassigned to head the office’s court security operations
Two new dogs will likely be purchased, Ortiz said, after the office raises enough money.