K-9 died of heat exhaustion in SUV in ‘tragic accident,’ officials say after investigation

Kantor, a K-9 with the Rowan County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina, died in April in...
Kantor, a K-9 with the Rowan County Sheriff's Department in North Carolina, died in April in what authorities are calling an accident.(Source: Rowan Sheriff's Office)
Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 9:16 AM CDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV/Gray News) - Officials said that the April death of a K-9 serving with the Rowan Sheriff’s Office was a tragic accident.

The sheriff’s office conducted a three-month-long investigation that reached several conclusions about what happened to Kantor, and described the incident as a “tragic accident.”

According to the report, on April 4, K-9 Kantor died of apparent heat exhaustion.

Kantor’s handler was off duty and out of town, and Kantor was at home with one adult family member and one 17-year-old family member. During the morning hours, the adult family member left for work, leaving Kantor and the 17-year-old family member at home.

At some point, Kantor became agitated and restless, the report said. The family member put Kantor in his issued county vehicle, started the engine, turned the air conditioning on and closed the door. This commonly used practice will usually reduce stress for a working police K-9 due to the amount of time they spend in the kennel inside their patrol vehicle. The 17-year-old family member was aware that this would likely calm the K-9.

Sheriff Travis Allen said that at some point the engine of the vehicle shut off, causing the heat level inside the vehicle to rise. The adult family member returned home and found Kantor deceased in the kennel of the handler’s patrol SUV.

The handler, who was approximately three hours away, was already on his way back home when he received the call from his family notifying him that Kantor had died.

“Our investigation revealed that at the time Kantor was placed in the vehicle, the air conditioning was running. The vehicle dealership has not been able to determine why the SUV’s engine shut off. The teen was not aware the K9 protection system needed to be activated which would have sounded an alarm when the temperature inside the SUV reached a certain level,” the report said. “Kantor’s handler and his family are devastated by this tragic loss to their family and ours.”

The report said Allen immediately began to take proactive steps to ensure this never happens again. He ordered a review of the K-9 policy and adopted new policies for the care of K-9′s when they are at home and the handler isn’t there with them.

The heat alarms on the K-9 vehicles “will be wired in a manner that will allow them to be activated automatically once the vehicle is started and will remain activated during the time that the K-9 is inside the vehicle,” the report said.

The sheriff’s department said it consulted with the District Attorney’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and has asked another Sheriff’s Office to review the situation.

The sheriff said of K-9′s death: “K-9s are not just working dogs, but also loved companions and close friends to the handlers and families they live with every day. The RCSO can replace Kantor, but the handler and his family will forever have the loss and void of his companionship and devotion. We here at the RCSO have taken steps and made policy changes to help avoid these tragic accidents in the future,”

K-9 Kantor is still on duty for the sheriff’s department, even though he no longer rides in the back of the SUV in the kennel. His cremated remains are in a special wooden box thatrides in the passenger seat with his handler.

“Thank you for your continued service, K-9 Kantor,” the report said.