The Long Beach Police Department’s investigation into the death of a police dog has been submitted to the district attorney’s office for review. Both criminal and administrative investigations are being conducted into the death of K-9 Ozzy, who was found dead on Aug. 14 after being left in his handler’s department-issued vehicle. Both Ozzy and his handler were off-duty at the time of the death.
“The initial criminal investigative file was presented to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division for review on Friday, Sept. 13,” LBPD wrote in a statement Tuesday. “The Police Department will be notified once the district attorney’s office completes their review to determine next steps.”
Results from a veterinarian’s examination determined the death to have been heat-related. Officials initially said that the heat-controlling system inside the vehicle had failed, and that the alert system that was supposed to be connected to the handler’s cellphone had malfunctioned.
Investigators have not verified to The Times the length of time Ozzy was left alone, nor have they confirmed that the heat-controlling system malfunctioned or that the handler had set up the alert system before the dog’s death.
Long Beach police have not identified Ozzy’s handler. The 6-year-old Belgian Malinois-German shepherd mix had worked as a K-9 for more than five years.
In California, it is illegal to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle when conditions may endanger its health and well-being. Circumstances include heat and cold as well as a lack of adequate ventilation, food or water.
Kathleen Wood, staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s criminal justice program, said cases involving police dogs are typically resolved within the department. One of the few instances that resulted in an animal cruelty charge occurred in 2015, after an Ohio police officer left his K-9 partner in his hot vehicle for four hours.
According to a Green Bay Press Gazette report released that same year, at least 46 police dogs throughout the U.S. died from excessive heat while inside their handlers’ cars from 2011 to 2015. In the years since, heat-related K-9 deaths, including heat exhaustion from being left in a vehicle, have continued. Malfunctioning fail-safe controlling systems have often been blamed.
“We do not advocate for the use of these systems because they are fallible,” Wood said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a report of one of these systems failing.”
Animal rights advocates have long reminded people that it takes only minutes for an animal to suffer from heat.
The investigation was prompted by a letter sent to Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey from advocates.
City News Service contributed to this report.