09/26/2007

Ariz. officer whose police dog died in hot car pleads not guilty

The Associated Press

CHANDLER, Ariz. — A Chandler police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday in the death of a police dog that was left in a hot patrol car for more than 12 hours.

Sgt. Tom Lovejoy did not appear in court, but his attorney entered the plea on his behalf. Lovejoy's parents, police officers and other supporters were in the courtroom.

"The public support showed the silent majority is coming out," Chandler police Sgt. Burt Robinson said.

He said Lovejoy was feeling upbeat Tuesday, even though "this whole ordeal has caused grief in his life."

"Some of the comments have been pretty nasty," he said. "That does affect us as public servants."

Maricopa County sheriff's investigators said Lovejoy left Bandit, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, in his patrol car on Aug. 11 for more than 12 hours. Lovejoy was arrested Sept. 5 by deputies on suspicion of animal cruelty.
 
If convicted, Lovejoy faces up to six months in jail, more than $1,000 in fines, probation and prohibition from owning another animal.

Lovejoy is scheduled to appear in court for a pretrial conference on Oct. 24.

Lovejoy's future with Chandler police remains uncertain. The department is working on an internal investigation to make a decision about his employment, said Sgt. Rick Griner, a Chandler police spokesman.

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