A Woodstock police officer is on paid leave and an investigation is under way into the death of a 3-year-old police dog that died from heatstroke in his handler’s patrol car Monday night, police say.
Woodstock Police Officer Chad Berry is on paid administrative leave until the completion of an internal investigation into the death of his police dog, Spartacus, who was found dead by Berry at his residence in Jasper on Monday at about 9 p.m., according to police reports.
The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office went to Berry’s house in Jasper when they received a report of the dog’s death from the owner, and are conducting their own investigation into the incident, a spokesman for the sheriff said.
Pickens Sheriff’s spokesperson Kris Stancil said that it’s possible the police dog was in Berry’s patrol car for about six hours from 3 to 9 p.m.
Stancil said there could be charges made against the officer for animal cruelty if investigators determine there was intentional neglect or cruelty involved, but said it’s too early in the investigation to know.
Woodstock Police said a memorial service will be announced for Spartacus in the future, and said the handler is “devastated by the loss.”
“We are committed to the care and proper treatment of our working K-9s,” said Woodstock Police spokesperson Brittany Duncan. “We are mourning the loss of one of our own.”
Berry has handled police dogs for nine years, and his first police dog, who is retired, now lives with his family. Spartacus was a Belgian Malinois and worked in narcotics detection, tracking and apprehension.
The investigation is expected to be wrapped up later this week, Stancil said.
The Woodstock Police K-9 Team Program policies regarding handler responsibilities say that “the assigned canine handler is responsible for the direct supervision, use and care of the animal” and “when animal rest periods should be taken.”
In eight pages of police dog policies, nowhere was the topic of leaving a police dog in a patrol vehicle mentioned.
Policy did note that the handler is personally responsible for the daily care of the animal, provision of food and water and general medical attention, and handlers must “demonstrate acquired abilities and necessary proficiency” as part of their initial K-9 training.