07/18/2003

Saving K-9s from the heat; Hot dog device alarms of heat

Wyoming Tribune-Eagle

Casey, a 4-year-old black German shepherd, has tracked down five pounds of methamphetamine, four pounds of mushrooms and $320,000 in cash in a spare tire, among other things.

But sometimes his owner, handler and partner, Laramie County Sheriff''s deputy Michael Rivers has to leave him behind in the car while on the job. During hot summer days, that can be a dangerous venture.

Most law enforcement officials who work with K-9 partners will leave the air conditioner on when leaving the animal in the car. But if the air conditioner failed, an animal could be killed. According to The Humane Society of the United States, a pet left in a car on a warm day can die from heatstroke or suffocation in a matter of minutes.

Enter local animal-lover Jeannine Stallings. For the past few months, Stallings has been trying to raise awareness and the funds to buy potential life-saving devices for animals called Hot Dogs.

"I''m just interested in animals in general," she said at an informal news conference Thursday. "And these are some fabulous animals."

The Hot Dog is a device that can be attached to a police dog''s cage. It works by lowering the car''s electric windows and activating a horn or siren when the temperature exceeds a programmed setting. It also will page the animal''s handler.

Stallings hopes to raise $3,340 to buy six of the devices for the Cheyenne Police Department and the Laramie County Sheriff''s Department.

Casey and Bodan are just two of six local K-9s who could benefit from Stallings'' work.

Cheyenne police officer Lyle Finch has been working with Bodan for five months. He used to work with retired K-9 Carlos, who took about $1.2 million in dope off the streets in two and a half years of work.

Finch said law enforcement officials who work with K-9s constantly think about their dogs and, specifically, the animals'' safety.

"We''ll park illegally to find them shade," he said. "You can justify it with $14,000 dogs in the vehicle."

K-9s have high values because of the extensive training invested in them for techniques such as tracking evidence.

This is not the first time Stallings has worked to help local K-9s. About three years ago, she campaigned to raise enough money to buy bulletproof vests for the dogs.

"Basically, I''m a member of the community concerned about law enforcement having all the tools they need," she said.

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