Austin Police Department system protects K9s from heat

Tuesday, a K9 in Arlington died from heat exhaustion after tracking a suspect for an hour.

Now, the Austin Police Department is demonstrating how they keep their police dogs safe in the hot summer temperatures. K9 officer James Bowman has been working with his partner Cash for the last five years, so they know each other pretty well by now.

“So he lets me typically know it's time to go to work and he sees the car, he sees the uniform and he fires up,” Bowman said. 

As the temperatures climb, Bowman has to be on the lookout for signs that Cash is reaching his limit.

“I'm pretty aware now on calls, when it's hot like this, I'll set my watch typically at a certain time. 10-15 minutes in, I know it's probably time to start heading back to the car,” said Bowman. 

“The Malinois and the working dog Shepherds, their drive is so high that they're not going to quit. They’re just going to keep going, even if they're about to pass out, they're not going to want to stop,” said Sgt. Christopher Gwaldo with the Austin Police Department Patrol K9 Unit. 

When the dogs help officers find a suspect and they start panting heavily or drooling excessively, it's usually time to take a break.

“Their body temperature is already hotter than ours and he's two feet from the ground, so he's breathing in the hot air that's real close to the pavement, real close to the asphalt, so it's just up to us to keep them on grass or in shade,” said Bowman. 

“We'll work them for about 20 minutes, give them a rest, put them back in the car where the a/c is, give them water, let a second dog work and then flip flop them back and forth,” Gwaldo said. 

What about when the K9 is in the car and the officer is busy working a call? Well, the Austin Police Department thought of that, too.

“We have a pager style remote that will chime or alert when the car reaches a certain degree. That's the first level of warning to the officer. The second level would be the fan comes on and the windows come down on the car and the horn operates and starts alerting that there's a heat problem. And then, lastly, the handler would have to push a button on the remote control on the pager fob to open the door to enable the dog to come out of the door,” said Gwaldo.  

Because the backup alarm system keeps K9s like Cash safe, the Austin Police Department said it's worth every cent.

Luckily, APD said they have never had to use the car alarm system. They expect to upgrade from the pager alert system to a cellphone application in the near future.