Des moines officer suspended over death of police dog

A police officer faces suspension without pay and the entire Des Moines police station makes policy changes to prevent another tragedy after one of their vice and narcotics K9 officers was needlessly killed.

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Harley, the 7-year old Yellow Lab and K9 partner to Des Moines, Iowa police officer, Brian Mathis, died tragically and senselessly in the back of his police vehicle when Mathis left him locked in the car for over an hour while outside temperatures reached 96 degrees.

When it’s 96 degrees outside, temperatures inside a sealed car can exceed 140 degrees in just a matter of minutes.

According to The Des Moines Register,

… investigators found no malice or intent in Mathis’ actions and that Mathis was remorseful about what had happened. In addition to working as a police dog, Harley was also the Mathis family pet.

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Officer Mathis drove to the station with Harley, intending to bring the dog inside to his air conditioned office. However, a phone call distracted the officer and he stepped inside, meaning to come right back out to get Harley. The quick phone call turned into a long meeting and, when a fellow officer accidentally kicked Harley’s food dish, jogged Mathis’ memory. He ran to the car but it was too late, his K9 partner was dead.

As a result of his actions, Mathis will face a 3-day suspension without pay and will be ineligible for another canine partner. Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw told reporters that Mathis is remorseful, accepting responsibility for his actions, and that he never intended to leave his dog in the car.

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Because of Harley’s death, the Des Moines police have put in place a new set of policies to prevent these types of accidents from ever occurring again.

The department will buy new alarm systems for all police vehicles that designated to have police dogs. The alarm system is capable of popping the vehicles’ doors or starting the engine, and alerting officers remotely if temperatures inside the vehicle reach a dangerous level, even when the vehicle is not running.

Additionally, officers partnered with dogs will be required to train with their dogs twice a month, with at least 2 of the training sessions dedicated to the animals’ welfare and care.

This is the first incident for the Des Moines police department involving the death of a dog. Nationwide, it is estimated that about 15 police dogs per year are killed in overheating cars.

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