K9 Harley’s Death Motivating Des Moines Police to Make Changes

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Police in Des Moines, Iowa are making changes after one of their K9s Harley died in August from being left in a hot vehicle. The officer responsible for leaving Harley in the vehicle and ultimately his death will no longer be able to work with dogs and has been suspended.

Harley, a 7-year-old lab had been paired with Officer Brian Mathis. They worked on the vice and narcotics unit. On August 29th, Mathis drove to the police station intending to leave Harley in the air conditioned office. Mathis became distracted by a phone call that dragged on longer than expected and left Harley in the car. When another officer accidentally kicked Harley’s food bowl Mathis suddenly remembered about Harley, but it was too late. Harley was alone in the car for more than an hour on a day where temperatures reached 96 degrees outside.

The tragic death of Harley has prompted the Des Moines police to make significant changes for the care of their K9s. Prior to this incident the department’s K9 policy had only a brief section on dog care. The department will now increase training for its handlers, including adding animal welfare and care training. “The goal is to make sure these animals that are our partners are healthy,” said Police Major Steve Waymire.

The department is also buying new alarm systems with heat sensors for all police cars. Harley’s vehicle did have an alarm system, but it only worked when the car was running. The new units will fix this problem. “We looked for a system that took less action to turn on and more to turn off,” said Police Sgt. Scott Raudabaugh. The new alarms will turn on automatically when the car starts, but officers must manually turn them off. In order to manually turn them off an officer has to press and hold down a button. When they do so a message will come up on the screen reminding the officers to make sure no dog is left in the vehicle. If the officer doesn’t actively deactivate the alarm it will remain on.

The alarm will also help let the officer know when the temperature is getting too high in the car. The system will honk the horn of the car when the temperature starts to get too high. If the sensors don’t see a temperature drop after this first alert, then the unit can roll down the car’s window and turn on fans. The unit also has the capability of turning on the car sirens and lights and calling the officer’s cellphone or dispatch. Officers will also now be equipped with tools that allow them to remotely open the car’s doors.

The Des Moines police want to make sure a tragedy like Harley’s never happens again. They hope these changes will protect the six K9s they currently have and all future K9s on their force.

8 thoughts on “K9 Harley’s Death Motivating Des Moines Police to Make Changes”

  1. Great changes for the department. Glad to read this.
    But the office was only suspended? People are fired these days for far less things.
    My dog is never left in the car unattended even for two minutes, never…and I have had dogs for many many years.

    RIP Harley

  2. It’s a shame to me that they have to rely on a machine that will tell them what common sense should. this officer should have been charged with animal abuse as far as I’m concerned, and it is my understanding from a previous article that this was the second dog that died under hi charge?

    Shameful on this police department.

  3. Of all the people in the world to do something like this. It just makes me sick. That poor dog did not deserve this. The police are the people you call when you see some car parked with an animal in it, which I myself have done. I am glad there have been changes made but this does not bring back the dog.

  4. My heart breaks for the suffering this poor K9 officer endured. RIP Harley…

    An “alarm” is only effective when someone hears it. Better procedural training is needed for handlers. They should NEVER leave a K9 officer in a vehicle (running or not) when they are not in eyesight of the vehicle at all times. If a handler comes into the office without his K9, other officers should immediately ask where the K9 is.

    I checked the Officer Down Memorial Page and there have been 8 K9 heat exhaustion deaths in 2012 in the US. This is a disturbing trend.

  5. I agree that on the ODMP there are way too many deaths of K-9’s for heat related. These Officers don’t deserve to have dogs peroid! I am a former handler before there were alarms for this too. I was young than, 22years old and I never never forgot about my K-9 partner. I always had a bucket of ice water on the back floor and uncovered it eveytime I left the vehicle. A food bowl too. I left the car running with the air on when I had to leave her in th vehicle also. To forget the K-9 is there…. Not acceptable.

  6. This canine deserved better treatment… Sorry but how can a responsible law enforcer FORGET his canine partner? PARTNER!! This is inexcusable! What an example this sets! That poor dog suffered needlessly and this mindless officer should be severly repremanded as this is pure and simple negligence! That poor animal ! Someone should take up for his rights even though he is no longer here!!! Shame shame!

  7. Just read that this isn’t the first dog this officer has had… What a scary thought… Have had numerous dogs in my lifetime and have NEVER forgot them in car nor anywhere else… I care for them and they respond likewise… a severly distasteful trend here for this ” officer”… Hope that this precent never have other canines! Never and especially this jerk! Sounds as if he did not care enough to have provisions for him and should NEVER have left him in the first place… Brainless!


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