By Darrell Todd Maurina
The heat-related death of a Muleshoe police dog earlier this month brought home the fears of a group of area animal lovers.
Thanks to a community funding drive spearheaded by the Clovis-Portales Kennel Club that raised $2,100, special warning units have been installed in all three of Clovis’ police K-9 units that sound alarms if the temperature inside the vehicle becomes dangerous to the health of the dogs.
The fund-raising effort predated the July 14 death of a Muleshoe police dog in an overheated car. However, the system installed by Clovis police would have prevented the Muleshoe incident in which a police dog died in the back seat of a police car whose air conditioner stopped working while the officer was filling out paperwork inside the station, according to Clovis canine officer Doug Ford.
“Basically what these units do is they monitor the temperature in the car,” said Ford. “If we have any kind of failure it will set off a heat alarm, it will put the back windows down, it sets off the horn of the car, and sets off a pager we carry.”
The Clovis police department solicited private donations because the cost of $700 per unit for three alarms is more than double what police budget each year for their dogs. Currently the police department budgets a bit more than $1,000 per year for food and veterinary care for each dog. However, Chief Bill Carey said the alarm is a good investment to protect dogs that cost about $7,000 each plus officer training that can range up to $6,000.
“We do appreciate the money that has been donated for the heat sensor units, and we have people who donate money for food and that kind of thing,” Carey said. “We take very good care of our canines and they are treated like members of our family. Any kind of medical attention they need, they get.”
Dr. Kristine Weaver, a Clovis veterinarian and president of the Clovis-Portales Kennel Club, said it took about two months to raise the funds.
She said the idea for raising money came from Ford, whose wife is an employee at Weaver’s veterinary clinic.
“They were talking about getting units for their cars because it becomes a risk during the summer months,” Weaver said.
Ford said the heat alarm units have only gone off so far during tests when the dogs were not in the cars. Police have been testing their alarm units periodically since the beginning of summer.
Carey said the Clovis police department has never yet lost a dog in the line of duty and hopes the new heat alarms will make a dog death even less likely.
“As far as we are concerned this is a great thing that the civic organizations have done to keep our dogs safe,” Carey said.