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How local law enforcement officers keep their K9s cool in warmer temperatures

Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 00:35:04-04

As temperatures reach triple digits in some parts of the Central Coast, local law enforcement agencies are keeping their K9s cool after a K9 was found dead in a patrol car in Long Beach due to heat.

Santa Barbara County Deputy Mike McNeil's K9, Magnum, is more than just his partner—he’s a part of his family.

"He's my partner 24/7. When the dog teams are assigned, this car is his and I'm his county chauffeur," Deputy McNeil joked.

On hot summer days, McNeil says he takes extra steps like checking the asphalt of parking lots before letting Magnum get out of the car.

"Just because I don't want to burn his pads. Their paws are more sensitive on their pads than yours or mine would be because we wear shoes, so if it's a really hot day, I'll put booties on (his paws) that we can stick on," McNeil explained.

Inside McNeil's patrol car is a device that is constantly monitoring the temperature inside the car.

McNeil has it set to alert him if the inside of the car gets over 82 degrees.

"The electronic device will send a signal to the heads-up display, which also sends a signal to the pager that I wear on my belt and it will vibrate slightly and say heat alert in the middle," he explained.

McNeil then only has a small amount of time to cool down the car before the next phase of the alert system goes off.

We took the dog out of the car to simulate what would happens if McNeil receives a heat alert and ignores it.

First, the car lowers its windows and turns up the fan in the back for the dog and then the car's alarm goes off along with the Code 3 lights.

"If I was in a store and this thing (holding temperature pager) didn't work through the concrete, someone could page us and say, ‘Hey the K9 handler outside - your horn and lights are going off,’" McNeil said.

For regular dog owners, Santa Barbara County Animal Services says technology like this isn't in most cars yet aside from Teslas.

"The best advice we can give is when the temperatures climb, leave them behind," said Stacy Silva, Community Outreach Coordinator.

Silva says all dogs show signs of overheating differently, but the most common signs are panting, drooling and restlessness.

In 2017, a new California state law went into effect that allows people to break the windows of cars with dogs inside if they believe the dogs are overheating. Silva cautions, however, that several steps must be taken before you can break the window, like checking to make sure the doors are locked and calling 911 first.