A law enforcement dog found dead inside a Utah Department of Corrections vehicle Thursday night likely died of “heat-related” causes, a prison official announced Friday.
The 8-year-old Belgian shepherd named Loki had worked with the department’s K-9 unit for six years, starting in 2017.
A news release from the corrections department did not state how long Loki had been in the vehicle before he was found dead at the Utah State Correctional Facility. It also did not state whether the vehicle was running with air-conditioning.
Though it’s unclear when exactly Loki was found dead, as of about 6 p.m. on Thursday, the temperature at Salt Lake City International Airport was 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The prison facility where the vehicle was located sits about 5 miles west of the airport. It’s unclear if any other K-9s were in the vehicle at the time Loki was found.
The vehicle Loki died in was specifically designed for K-9 travel and equipped with a heat-detection alert system, but no alert was received, said Brian Redd, executive director of the Department of Corrections, during a Friday news conference.
It’s unclear if the equipment malfunctioned or failed because of operator error, Redd said. The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the dog’s death.
Loki’s K-9 handler was placed on leave as he works to process Loki’s loss, Redd said. He is not currently facing any disciplinary action.
According to a guide that the national Humane Society compiled for law enforcement about investigating heat-related illness and death in dogs, authorities should look for signs of heat stress including panting, drooling, glazed eyes, dry tongue, vomiting and diarrhea.
If a dog was left in a vehicle, investigators should take the animal’s temperature and document it, as well as obtain a weather report, including temperature, heat index and humidity at that date and time, according to the guide. Surveillance footage from the area should be obtained to determine how long the dog was left in the car, and photographs should be taken to capture the condition of the vehicle, including shade, ventilation, and signs of attempted escape, including claw marks.
If the dog dies, it should immediately be taken to a veterinarian for a necropsy, the guide adds. It’s unclear what if any actions the corrections department or state investigators took after Loki’s death.
Loki was one of seven dogs that assisted both of Utah’s prisons with drug detection, fugitive apprehension, facility security and emergency response, according to the news release. It’s unclear if the K-9 will be replaced.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of Loki, who served this department faithfully,” Redd said in a statement. “We are mourning along with all of our staff, and at the same time we are committed to fully investigating the circumstances of Loki’s passing.”