Lowcountry law enforcement use precautions to keep K-9 partners cool

Published: Jul. 28, 2016 at 8:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2016 at 12:18 AM EDT
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SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - Some local law enforcement have special precautions to protect K-9 partners when temperatures rise.

"They're sworn officers like we are so we want to make sure they're safe at the end of the day too," PFC Tara Burke of Summerville Police said. "The vehicles are equipped with a 'hot dog' system. It's got a fan and an if the temperature reaches a certain setting, which we set, the alarm will go off, sounds off all the bells and whistles in the car. The windows will automatically roll down and that fan will kick on."

Officer Burke and her K-9 partner "Apart" are one of four K-9 teams in Summerville.  The pair works together on high-risk assignments like drug searches.

"We are literally together 24/7," Burke said. "We work 12 hours a day together…he's in the car with me."

Burke said the A/C is always running for Apart, but the special cooling alarm system provides a little peace of mind when she must leave him in the car. If the temperature rises above her pre-set 85 degrees, she receives an alert on both the system hand remote as well as her cell phone.

"It's a little nerve-wracking because you think 'Am I going to get there quick enough?' But the system does a good job of getting things cool for us."

It's not just hot cars that are dangerous for the working K-9. Burke said she also takes extra measures when the team is in the field on searches and other operations.

"Additionally, when we do go out to track and things like that where he's going to be in the heat, I've got boots to go on his feet to keep his pads from burning," Burke said, "And a little "go" bag with me….and of course, water."
On July 19, a K-9 officer with Arlington Police in TX got overheated during a search operation and died. Another K-9 was lost with an Indiana department in June.

"That is one of my biggest fears, him overheating" Burke said. "You hear horror stories all the time, and I would be absolutely devastated if anything happened to him. He's turned into my best friend very quickly."

Multiple K-9 unites operate in the Charleston area.

Dorchester County Sheriff's Office said in addition to always running the A/C, "the K9 vehicles have an alarm that will alert the handler in the event the vehicle shuts off while the K9 is in the vehicle when the handler is not present, or if the temperature rises to an unsafe level. They always have fresh water available for the k9's after activity.  In extreme heat they will
limit the dogs use as much as possible."

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