With the help of public donations, Sumter County Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 Unit is better equipped to protect law enforcement dogs from overheating inside vehicles with the recently installed Ace K9 Hot-N-Pop Pro System.
Lt. Larry Wix said K-9 unit officers keep a pager with them that receives a signal from the system to let them know as the temperature inside the vehicle rises. Officers will receive a warning on the pager when the temperature inside the vehicle increases by three degrees, he said.
If the temperature reaches dangerous levels, the system will turn on the fan, roll down the windows of the vehicles and switch on the lights and sirens, alerting the officer to the situation.
Wix said each system cost about $3,000, and they were all purchased with donations provided by residents and local businesses.
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There are five K-9 unit officers within the sheriff’s office.
So far only four vehicles are equipped with the new system. Wix said the fifth officer is waiting to receive a new vehicle.
Capt. Russell Elmore said the systems are preset to go off when the temperature reaches 85-90 degrees, but officers can adjust the limit once the system is installed.
When the officers are responding to a call, the dogs can be left inside the running vehicles for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the situation, he said. It could be longer if it’s a major scene, he said.
At most, dogs can survive 12 to 15 minutes in an overheated vehicle, but even if a dog is removed within 15 minutes, there is no guarantee that the dog will live, he said.
Officers in the K-9 unit are motivated to provide the best care for the dogs because it is their duty, but also because of the bond they build with the animals.
Law enforcement dogs stay with their handlers throughout the day and even go home with them at night, although they are not treated like a normal pet, Elmore said.
The dogs stick to a daily routine but you can tell by their attitudes that this is what they enjoy, said Cpl. Cameron Prescott.
Senior Cpl. William Self said the alarm will go off before the temperature reaches the programmed limit in order to give the officers enough time to get to the dogs.
The system also reduces the amount of pressure on officers because they will no longer have to periodically check on the dogs and vehicles while at a scene.
Before the alarms were installed, officers had to make sure the vehicles were within view and would sometimes have to lift the hoods of the vehicles to make sure things were working properly, Elmore said.
The temperature-monitoring system also comes with a device that will open a rear door of the officer’s vehicle to release the dog so it can assist its handler in an emergency situation.
Self said this feature will be helpful to officers in situations when back up has yet not arrived.
Lt. Wix thanks the public for its donations that went toward the purchase of the systems.
The sheriff’s office received donations from: Southern Auto Parts Inc., Elmore Cannon-Stephens, Vanessa Hatfield, Restorative Arts Dental, FTC, Richard S. Marks DMD PA, Peach Orchard Deer Processing, John Weible, Palmetto Gas Corporation, Deposit (Thompson Construction Group Inc.), Vestco Properties, Liberty Seafood, Dyson Hauling, Carolina Services, Palmetto Sheet Metals and C & M Recycling.