GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is looking to equip patrol cars with special alarms aimed at keeping four-legged officers safe, and a gift from a state kennel club has kick-started the effort.
The Hoosier Kennel Club recently donated a device that monitors the temperature inside a patrol car and alerts police K-9 handlers if a dog could be overheating.
If the K-9 heat alarm, produced by military and police equipment company Elite K-9, senses the temperature in a car has risen to a dangerous level, it triggers the patrol car’s alarm system, sends a message to the handler’s cellphone and rolls down two of the car’s automatic windows.
Eight K-9s around the country died from heat exhaustion in 2016 after being left in their handler’s patrol car in hot temperatures, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks law enforcement deaths. In only one incident was the car equipped with a temperature alarm, though the device failed to alert the handler. Each death was considered an accident.
The sheriff’s department has five K-9s on its force and is often called upon by smaller county departments for back-up. The Shirley Police Department is currently the only local department that utilizes a heat alarm for its one K-9 officer. The Greenfield Police Department has two K-9 officers, but handler’s patrol cars do not have heat alarms. The McCordsville, Fortville and New Palestine police departments do not have K-9 officers.
Local law enforcement leaders have mulled for some time how to keep the dogs safe and comfortable while handlers take calls that don’t require their K-9, said Maj. Brad Burkhart, the sheriff’s chief deputy and member of the department’s K-9 unit.
The department started searching for a grant that would cover the cost of the $700 devices. Around the same time, Kevin Allen, a Hancock County resident and spokesman for the Hoosier Kennel Club, contacted the department about a contribution his organization was willing to make.
Burkhart and sheriff’s deputy Scott Chapman visited the club’s annual Indy Winter Classic dog show Saturday to accept a certificate for the purchase of one heat alarm from Elite K-9. The device will be installed in Chapman’s car in the coming weeks to help protect his K-9 partner, Brix.
Now, Allen and Burkhart hope the kennel club’s gift will spark more donations from community members so department leaders can buy four more heat alarms — a purchase that would total upwards of $3,000.
But the peace of mind the devices bring to K9 handlers is well worth the cost, Allen said.
Sheriff’s department handlers keep their cars on with the air conditioning running when the dogs are left inside, but were a system to malfunction, it could lead to tragedy, Burkhart said.
The Hoosier Kennel Club’s donation is part of the organization’s ongoing effort to better law enforcement K-9 units around the state, Allen said. Each year, the club uses some of the profits from its dog show to buy K-9 safety equipment for an area department.
Allen was pleased to have the chance to help out the law enforcement officers who protect his hometown.
The group hopes to make give similar gifts to other departments in the area each year, he said.
The Hancock County Sheriff’s Department is continually accepting donations to help fund equipment for its K-9 program. Contributions can be mailed or brought to 123 E. Main St., Greenfield. For more information about the K-9 program, call 317-477-1147 or search Hancock County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Unit on Facebook.