CHEROKEE COUNTY, GA (WXIA) - Officials in Cherokee County have confirmed that a police K9 is dead after being left in a hot patrol car for several hours.

The Cherokee Marshal's Office and Cherokee Sheriff's Office responded to the home of Lt. Dan Peabody, a school resource officer, on Friday evening.

According to a preliminary investigation, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Inca was left in the officer's patrol unit at about 4:15 p.m.

The officer went into his home to "deal with another dog" inside the home.

Officials said that around 7 p.m., the officer remembered Inca was still in the patrol car and found the police canine dead in the rear of the patrol unit.

Officials said at a Saturday press conference that Peabody lent his K9 vehicle to another officer whose vehicle was out of service.

They said Peabody drove home that day in a Ford Crown Victoria that was not equipped with cages or alarms and they believe that "played a factor" in what later unfolded at the home. 

"This vehicle was not equipped with alarms, it was not equipped with a kennel," Marshal Chief Ron Hunton said.
"It wasn’t equipped in the manner that you see normally in a K9 vehicle. I certainly have to say that obviously that had an impact on this."

Hunton said that, in this case, that's extremely important.

"If you’re going to have K9s you need to take care of them," he said. "And you need to make sure the cars are equipped to take care of these dogs. That’s just a fact. I understand in this case the car was down and they had some vehicle issues, but you can see what can happen."

Officials said Peabody, who has since been assigned to administrative duties, was so grief-stricken by the death that he was hospitalized that night.

Inca will be taken to the University of Georgia for a necropsy. Investigation into the death is ongoing.

According to a web page on the Cherokee County Board of Education site, the canine unit began in 2007 and is used to deter the possession, use and sale of illegal substances on school campuses.

The page said that two canine teams - one partnering Inca with Cherokee County Lt. Dan Peabody and another partnering Officer Eric Maddox with K9 Ayla, worked proactively with school-based administrators to conduct sweeps of vehicles, lockers and classrooms in accordance with School District protocols and departmental policy.

The School District Police Department partners with other local jurisdictions for training, combined response and demonstrations purposes throughout the year.

Official documents said that each K9 and handler is certified annually by the National Narcotic Detector Dog Association and department training occurs on a weekly basis.

The document, a Cherokee County School District Police Department status report from Dec. 3 has since been taken down as has a Facebook page dedicated to the school district K9 unit.

Peabody has been with the school police department since 2000.

Read more at WXIA's website.