An ongoing investigation into the death of two Bexar County Sheriff's Department canines has left San Antonio with many questions. How did could this have happened? What could have been done to prevent the tragedy? And will criminal charges be brought?
On Tuesday, July 24th, Sheriff's Deputy Steve Benoy took the dogs in a county-owned Chevrolet Tahoe with dog kennels to his home in Adkins, TX. This routine is standard for officers who work with K-9s and Benoy had done this several times before. On this particular day, though, Benoy did not follow his regular routine and left the dogs locked in the SUV with the windows rolled up at about 2 PM. It is still unclear why. He then left town for an overnight trip.
When he returned on Wednesday, almost 30 hours later, the two Belgian Malinois police dogs were dead. It is believed that they died of heat exhaustion, but animal care services will be conducting a necropsy to determine the official cause of death.
Benoy has 23 years of service, 13 of which have been as a K-9 handler. He has been placed on leave for 10 days while an investigation into animal cruelty and administration purposes is conducted. It is estimated that the total cost of a police canine is around $40,000. This includes the initial cost, the training, and the care of the animal.
The interior of a parked car can reach scorching temperatures within minutes, especially during the summer. According to PETA's website, temperatures inside a car can reach upwards of 160 degrees on a 78 degree day. Cracking the windows has minimal to no effect on reducing the temperature. On the Tuesday and Wednesday in question, temperatures in San Antonio were 96 degrees.
There are devices that can be put into cars to prevent this sort of tragedy. Heat alarm systems automatically lower windows, turn on a fan, and sets off a horn. Some systems can even send a message to cell phone. It appears that the department had two such alarm systems, which were never opened. It is unclear why the department failed to utilize a lifesaving measure at their disposal.
In Texas, animals may not have legal rights, but there are laws in place to protect domesticated animals. Texas Penal Code Section 42.092, Cruelty to Nonlivestock Animals, states that a person who recklessly confines an animal in a cruel manner or recklessly kills an animal can be convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor. Cruel manner is defined as an action that "causes or permits unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering." Punishment for a Class A Misdemeanor is a fine of up to $4,000 and/or imprisonment for one year.
Under the terms of Texas law, Benoy acted in a reckless and unreasonable manner when he left his two K-9 partners locked in a car for more than 24 hours. These two dogs were completely dependent on Benoy for their well-being and he failed them. They needlessly suffered at the hands of the man who was supposed to be their caretaker. The dogs were subjected to unjustifiable pain.
Contact the Law Office of Dayna L. Jones if you are facing any kind of criminal charges or are under investigation at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with the attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.