LOGAN, Utah July 21 2017 — A deputy with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor aggravated cruelty to an animal after his canine partner died when left in a hot patrol vehicle.
Deputy Jason Whittier was the K-9 handler assigned to work with Endy, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois. The Cache County Sheriff’s Office in northern Utah reported on Tuesday that Whittier left Endy in his patrol truck at the end of a shift on July 3 and the dog died of heat exhaustion.
If convicted of misdemeanor aggravated cruelty to an animal, Whittier faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The Cache County Attorney’s Office issued a press release on Wednesday that states it is working closely with investigators, who are members of the independent Northern Utah Critical Task Force, to gather any additional facts related to this case.
“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,” said Tony Baird, chief deputy with the Cache County Attorney’s Office.
Because of the ongoing investigation, authorities said they will not have additional comments at this time.
“This is a case attributed to distraction with tragic consequences. Endy’s death serves as a devastating reminder to us all about the importance of eliminating distractions, maintaining a routine, and being vigilant about never leaving children or pets unattended in hot vehicles,” Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen said in a press release on Tuesday.
When Jensen was notified of the dog’s death, Deputy Whittier was immediately placed on administrative leave and Jensen requested two separate investigations — one to be completed internally and another to be completed by the Northern Utah Critical Incident Task Force.
“My administration has conducted a comprehensive review of our canine program including equipment, care, welfare, daily maintenance, and training,” Jensen said. “I believe our policies and procedures are sound. This incident was a result of human error and protocol violation.”
Administrative action has been taken within the sheriff’s office and included leave without pay and a job reassignment for Whittier.
Patrol vehicles for K-9 officers are equipped with safety features that are in place during a shift when the vehicle is operating. However, after Endy’s death, Jensen said the sheriff’s office is looking into new technology that will require the officer to manually shut down a security system at the end of a shift. If that system is not shut down, it will activate horns, lights and sirens until the dog is removed.
“The loss of Endy was unexpected and heartbreaking, and our officers mourn his loss,” Jensen said. “Endy was a beloved member of our organization and our community. The effects of his loss are felt throughout the Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement throughout Cache County.”
Prior to working with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office, Endy was a K-9 at the Logan City Police Department.
The sheriff’s office said, “The Cache County Sheriff’s Office will be holding a memorial service at the Sheriff’s Complex honoring Endy, his service, and the legacy he leaves among law enforcement and residents across the valley. Interment will follow. The community is invited to attend, and details will be announced through our website www.cachesheriff.com and on our Facebook page.”