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Mercer County, Ohio (county seat Celina), Sheriff Jeff Grey recently announced the death of the department's K-9 Unit, Zak. An investigation is under way.
According to the sheriff, at approximately 1 p.m. last Wednesday, Deputy Chad Fortkamp, the K-9 handler, found Zak dead when he returned to his patrol car.
Fortkamp had been at the office to complete the reconstruction of a traffic crash. "When at the office, the car is either left running with air conditioning on or Zak comes into the building," stated Sheriff Grey. "The car was not running, and it appears that Zak was overcome by the heat."
An autopsy was performed and it was discovered Zak had a pre-existing heart condition, which the sheriff's department was aware of, that may have been aggravated by the temperature inside the car. However, the veterinarian stated that a perfectly healthy dog probably would not have survived the heat.
"I have assigned Chief Deputy Thobe to do a thorough investigation into why the dog was in the car and why the the car did not have the air conditioning running. Once that investigation is complete the results will be released," said Grey. "At that point, a decision will be made on whether disciplinary action against the handler is warranted.
"I am deeply disappointed and apologize to the members of the Moose Lodge, the Eagles of Celina and others who helped fund the K-9 program. In 2010, the Moose Lodge donated $5,000 and the Eagles donated $1,500 for the purchase of Zak after K-9 Bleck died of an intestinal obstruction. It is my intent to get answers as to what happened."
At this point, the sheriff's department hs announced plans to suspend the K-9 program as it has lost two dogs in the last three years.