Dogs, as much as we love them, are not people.
The Georgia Legislature seemed to recognize this in 2015 when it watered down a bill that would have made it a second degree murder offense to intentionally kill a police dog.
But what happens when killing the dog is an accident?
If you are a police officer, not much.
Since 2013, five Georgia K9 officers have been killed, according to the Officer Down website. Four died inside hot police vehicles.
- Cherokee County Lt. Daniel Peabody resigned last week after leaving his dog in a hot car. He will not be criminally charged in the death of Inca, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois.
- In July of 2015, Conyers K9 officer Jerahmy Williams was not charged after the hot car death of Zane, a 5-year-old bloodhound. He resigned.
- The same hot month, Baston, a K9 officer at Savannah State University also died in a hot car. The reports I read did not name the dog’s handler but said he left the department.
- In 2013, Officer Chad Berry of the Woodstock Police Department was suspended without pay for 10 days and fined $325 for leaving Spartacus, a 3-year old Belgian Malinois, inside his patrol car, where he died. Berry was also reassigned to the traffic department, where his salary was lowered.
- Tanja, a Walker County K9, was killed by a shotgun blast in June 2014 while pursuing a sex crime suspect near Lookout Mountain. Steven Lee Waldemer was sentenced to 25 years after he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery on a police officer, aggravated assault on a peace officer, harming a police dog, possession of explosives by a convicted felon, sexual battery, and other charges.
Tanja’s death spurred state Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) to write the bill that increased penalties for harming a police dog. Current Georgia law makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to intentionally kill a K9 officer. The law also requires the person who harmed the dog to pay restitution for veterinary care and/or the cost of replacing the animal.
How much does it cost to replace a K9 officer? About $25,000 it seems from my online research.
In 2015, 27 K9 officers were killed nationwide, according to the Officer Down website. Twelve died from heat exhaustion, four by gunfire.
Since 2013, Georgia leads the nation in K9 officer hot car deaths. Of the 82 K9 death reported on the Officer Down website since 2013, 19 are from heat exhaustion. Four of those deaths are in Georgia, three in Texas, two in Florida and Maryland. Nine other states reported one heat exhaustion death.
Should police officers be charged with a crime for making a mistake?
Soon, the good people of Glynn County will soon be asking the question we’ve all pondered — is it possible to forget you’ve left your child in a car on a hot day?
The murder trial of Justin Ross Harris, who left 22-month-old Cooper Harris in the back seat of his car, begins anew Sept. 12 in Brunswick.
Many parents I’ve spoken to say they find it hard to believe the boy’s death was an accident.