Laredo City Council addresses k-9 deaths

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 3:05 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - City Council addressed the death investigations of K-9 officers during Monday’s meeting.

Laredo Police Chief Claudio Trevino Says there have been two canine officer deaths over the past couple of years.

The first happened in October of last year when a dog was left in a police patrol unit.

The handler had disciplinary action and was ordered to pay $12,000.

The second case happened in July when that dog was found dead in his kennel.

Both incidents appear to have been heat-related.

As a result, Chief Trevino says they will be discussing potential changes in policy.

The police chief says, " I’ll consult with legal and management. As far as policies we have in place, to make it more mandatory for the dogs to come inside the residence. That is something we can handle within policy. I’ll certainly look at that to do for cold and for heat.”

As for the officer involved in the second case, Chief Trevino says he’s set to go before a disciplinary board.

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After several calls were made to a Laredo council member on K-9 deaths, the matter was addressed on Monday evening at city council.

The item was placed by District 5 council member Ruben Gutierrez to discuss K-9 deaths within the last two years.

Laredo Police Chief, Claudio Trevino, showed council the incident reports.

The first case presented was of October 6th, 2020, of K9 Turbo, a Dutch Shepherd.

According to the incident report, K9 Turbo was found deceased inside a police patrol unit.

Its K9 handler inadvertently left him inside unit when he went off duty.

Turbo’s cause of death was found to be heatstroke/ heat exhaustion.

The report states that the handler received disciplinary action and paid restitution.

The case was investigated thoroughly by the Office of Professional Standards and presented to the Webb County District Attorney’s Office.

“All the matters were handled internally,” Trevino said.

The handler had to pay a fine of over $12,000.

The second case presented was of July 18, 2021, of K9 Otto- Belgian Malanois/ Shepherd Mix.

According to the incident report, K9 Otto was found deceased in his kennel.

Otto’s cause of death was found to be heatstroke/ heat exhaustion.

Otto was known to spin in his kennel and according to the report this behavior may have also contributed to Otto becoming overheated.

The officer is pending disciplinary review.

Trevino states the case was investigated thoroughly by the Office of Professional Standards and presented to the Webb County District Attorney’s Office.

“The dog was placed in the kennel for a period of upwards of five hours in the afternoon of July 18th, when the handler returned home, he found it deceased in the kennel,” Trevino said.

The case will be handled in the next few days.

Councilmember Gutierrez asked Chief Trevino about the manufacturer of the kennel and how it was set up.

“I’ve heard that certain times of the day the dog was not protected by the elements, the heat,” Gutierrez said.

“That’s part of the investigation. It revealed that when the kennel was set up, it had shade from only the wall, the side. But during this month, months later, it was set up in April. So, by July, the position of the sun shifted. The handler was not aware that at a certain time, there was no shelter from the sun,” Chief Trevino said.

Pending the investigation from the board, Chief Trevino said he will be reviewing the next steps to take.

District 3 councilmember Mercurio Martinez III, addressed some concerns regarding the cases.

“I have dogs too and I think I’m responsible for these dogs. They become part of the family. When it’s going to be 100 degrees, I make sure that they are comfortable. They are inside the house, air-conditioned, I don’t let them out there when it’s very, very hot. If you got a K-9 handler out there and their partner is dying because of heat exhaustion there’s a part of negligence on that handler,” Martinez said.

Martinez proposed to make a motion that if a K-9 handler loses a partner, that they are not allowed to get another K-9.

District 4, Albert Torres, said this could create an issue regarding bargaining violations.

District 7, Vanessa Perez, addressed the current ordinance regarding the shelter of animals according to extreme weather conditions.

“I’ll consult with legal and management, as far as policies we have in place, to make it more mandatory to make the dogs come inside the residence. We can handle it within policies, I’ll certainly look at that to do that for cold and for heat,” Trevino said.

Torres proposed to establish an ordinance that would require any animal that is the property of the city of Laredo, that if the animal passes away, to have the following: autopsy ordered, and case forwarded to all law enforcement agencies for possible prosecution.

District 6 council member Dr. Marte Martinez asked if they could rectify the amendment in which K-9 officers are shielded.

Another item proposed was to have a ceremony to mourn the death of K-9 officers.

Jeffery Miller, Laredo International Airport director, addressed council and said they are required to have an animal relief area.

District 2 Vidal Rodriguez asked why a policy was not in place for the K-9 officer to be inside the handlers.

Assistant city manager, Kristina Hale, said this was discouraged because it would promote the K-9 was not working outside.

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