Local police dogs stay cool and safe with special heat sensor system
Vince, the 4-year-old Belgian Shepherd Dog, helps with drug busts and catching criminals. He's Lt. Scott Reneau's partner, both on and off the clock.
"My main job is to make sure he stays safe," Reneau said. "His job is to keep me safe, and in return, my job is to keep him safe."
Especially in the heat.
On top of the tinted windows, constant air conditioning, and even his own water bowl built into the back seat -- there's a special heat sensor alarm to make sure Vince stays cool.
It's known as a "Hot Dog System."
"If it gets over 92 degrees, what it starts doing is going through little steps to let me know," Reneau explained.
We tested it out with Vince safely outside of the patrol car. Within two minutes of turning off the air conditioning, the horn started sounding. It won't stop until someone comes to the car.
"Then after the horn goes off, if I'm not out there, then the horn will go off again, and the windows will drop," said Reneau.
Sure enough, the windows automatically rolled down after three minutes. An interior fan also turned on. Enabling a special setting can make the sirens sound, too.
At the Chattanooga Police Department, all 11 K9 patrol cars use the same technology. Hamilton County Sheriff's Office K9 units also use the Hot Dog System.
Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tommy Meeks said officers and their dogs have a special bond.
"That's their partner," Meeks said. "They're with them eight hours a day. More likely 24 hours a day, because they go home with us as well."
While police make sure they keep their own dogs safe, they also stay busy responding to calls from concerned citizens who see dogs left inside hot cars while their owner goes shopping.
"It's a slow, agonizing death. You wouldn't want to wish that on your worst enemy, much less a beloved pet you forgot or thought would be OK," said Jamie McAloon, executive director of McKamey Animal Center.
McAloon urges folks who see trapped animals to call 911, especially in counties who don't have animal services.
If authorities arrive before the owner takes off, they can get issued a citation, she said.
"You could be cited for neglect, animal cruelty. If you leave an animal in a car, and you put it in that kind of jeopardy, you're definitely going to get a citation from us," McAloon said.
Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Sixteen states currently have state laws that specifically protect animals left in hot cars, but Tennessee and Georgia are not among them.