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When a Police K-9 is Killed

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Back in June I wrote an article about Police K-9 Spartacus who was found dead in his partner, Police Officer Chad Berry’s, patrol car in Woodstock, Georgia.

An investigation of the incident was conducted by the Woodstock Police and the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigation revealed that Officer Berry admitted to leaving Spartacus in his vehicle which was parked in the front of his home, after they returned from shift. Spartacus was left in the vehicle for a reported ten hours in temperatures that reached in the low 80s.

A necropsy determined that Spartacus died of heat stroke.

According to Brittany Duncan, public information officer for Woodstock Police, “Officer Chad Berry has been suspended without pay for 80 hours (or 10 days), reassigned to traffic enforcement, fined $325 (charged with cruelty to animals by the Pickens Sheriff’s Office) following the investigation into K-9 Spartacus’ death.

Officer Berry will also lose $6,000 annually in special pay he once received as a K-9 Officer.

The Woodstock Police investigation determined that Berry violated policies governing the responsibilities of K-9 handlers.

After this incident the Woodstock Police are reviewing their K-9 Handler policies.

I’m involved in the Army’s Military Working Dog (MWD) Community. I have 13 MWD currently under my control in Virginia and have managed thousands of working dogs in Afghanistan for the United States Military.

I understand the deep level of commitment that is needed to care for these special dogs. I also deeply believe that Military Dogs are fellow service members. Ask any young trooper whose life is owed to a military dog that found an Improvised Explosive Device before it blew them to pieces in Afghanistan or Iraq and, they would tell you the same.

This train of thought doesn’t stop with the military.

Joseph Turner, a veteran suffering from drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq, killed Police K-9 Magnum in Anderson, Indiana in 2012.

Turner received a twelve year prison sentence for shooting Police K-9 Magnum.

Anderson Police Chief Larry Crenshaw remarked. “We want justice served. We want awareness that police dogs are police officers.”

During the trial, Officer Matt Jarrett, Magnum’s partner detailed how the dog’s death had traumatized him and his entire family. Magnum’s death had caused his young children to have nightmares that Officer Jarrett would also be shot in the line of duty.

Related: The Service Members that Went Unrecognized on Memorial Day

So, Officer Berry receives administrative penalties for killing his K-9 partner and Iraqi War Veteran Joseph Turner receives a 12 year sentence for shooting K-9 Magnum.

The disparity in these sentences is appalling.

The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), a site that remembers all fallen law enforcement heroes, has recently began tracking Police K-9 deaths.

Their site states, “ODMP K9 honors the hundreds of police canines that have been killed in the line of duty serving alongside America’s law enforcement officers. These loyal companions have given their lives to ensure their handlers, fellow officers, and citizens stay safe.”

From my research I’m gauging that Police Officers consider their Police K-9 as fellow officers, much like our military service members.

But this appears to be overlooked in state and local laws and completely forgotten when a Police K-9 dies because of handler negligence.

I can understand and accept how US Border Control K9 Sani died.

While tracking drug mules in Tucson, Arizona, in July 2013, Sani began showing signs of distress and his handler immediately abandoned the search and transported Sani to a veterinarian hospital. The veterinarians worked for two days but couldn’t save the dog.

This is the remembrance that Sani’s partner left on the ODMP site:

“RIP my partner and friend. It was an honor to be your handler. I couldn’t have asked for a better dog. You leave me with 3 1/2 years worth of memories that I will never forget. Thank you for always being by my side. Love you boy.”


Sani’s partner

August 2, 2013

But what I can’t and won’t accept is the fact that negligence was involved in the death of Police K-9 Spartacus. Two policing organization conducted an investigation, Officer Berry admitted to leaving his partner in the car, yet he was only charged with animal cruelty and forced to pay a fine.

I have two dogs and a sixteen month old son, leaving any of them in the car alone for even ten minutes, never mind ten hours in the summer heat would never happen.

There was clearly negligence in the death of Police K-9 Spartacus. I believe Officer Berry’s supervisor’s let him slide with a slap on the wrist.

Recently there was a second case of a Police Dog that died from heat stroke after being left in a patrol car. This time it happened in Bennettsville, SC. The negligent officer received a comparable sentence to Officer Berry.

But my thought is this- you can’t have it both ways. Either a Police K-9 is a cop or not.

Are Police dogs fellow officers?

Does Officer Berry’s punishment fit the crime?  

Should Officer Berry face criminal charges?  

What do you think would have happened if a “criminal” had killed Spartacus while fleeing the scene of a crime? 

More From This Author: Police Officer Kills K9 Partner, Should He Be Tried As A Cop Killer?

See Also: Photos: Military Working Dog Parachutes From 1,000 feet As Part of Anti-Terror Training




About Kevin Hanrahan

Kevin Hanrahan is a writer, Active Duty Army Officer and dog advocate who was instrumental in spearheading the surge of working dogs into Afghanistan. In 2010, he successfully lobbied the Army to adopt an innovative and life saving explosive detecting dog program in Afghanistan. He writes about becoming a published author, his thoughts on the military based on his twenty years of service and advocates for military dogs at The Army currently has him stationed in Virginia where he lives with his wife Megan, son Brady and their two dogs, Sammy and Stella

49 Responses

  1. avatar micknut says:

    Yes a K9 is a fellow cop and no the punishment does not fit the crime.
    He should have jail time and loose his badge. A cop that can’t remember that is partner and dog is in car is to be trusted with live ammo and is suppose to protect the general public and we are to trust his good judgement. No I don’t think so.

  2. avatar Mary Kennedy says:

    This is shocking–very sad about Spartacus–I can’t believe his handler got off so easily. Disgusted.

  3. avatar Dottie says:

    This is inexcusable and I agree on this punishment 1 day for each hour of suffering is a disgrace! I’ve been envolved with Malinois since 1995 and bred them for 16 years. So many people do not reallze that a Malinois can overheat in open air conditions in the mid 70′s. The first sign to look for is brick red coloring of the inside of the ears, this will appear before heavy panting of distress, if a child’s plastic wading pool is provided in a shaded area a Malinois will stand in the water to cool his body temp, they are very heavy drinkers and require more water than the average dog if they are not in a cool environment. It is heartbreaking to think of the suffering he went through before death. All double coated breeds overheat easily but a can rise very rapidly

  4. avatar Rocky Hurst says:

    Yes it is a shame that the police officer in his car that day. He as got to live with that for the rest of his life. The inquiry in the dog death, sure the office lost some salary and back on traffic duty plus a fine. After all the dog was not just a normal dog, he was a police dog there for another officer , If the dog handler had not put him in his car that day he would still be here. Therefor the officer deserves just more than just a slap on the wrist. After all a crime is a crime regardless of who it is. The soldier that shot his dog got 12 years that’s because he use a gun. The officer put his dog in his patrol car knowing it was hot. I think that he should do some prison time, them be will have more time to think of what he did. He at the end of the day killed a fellow officer. Even if he only got six months it would be a punishment to him for what he did plus be banned so he can’t have another dog.

  5. avatar Rogeliordz says:

    Here in Houston almost the same exact scenario played out but havent heard anything on the local news about it for some time.

  6. These officers to which they should be regarded aa are deputised as a “human officer” is. This is self exlpanatory. If u or q K-9 is deputised then you are thetefor considered & regarded as such. My grandfather was an officer & a USM in New Jersey. My condolences & warmest regards for our fallen HEROS…thank you, Danielle Holt USNRET

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I still don’t see how this can happen. It blows my mind how negligent some of these officers are. They kill their partner, cost the taxpayer thousands and yet receive a simple slap on the wrist. It makes me sick!

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