DPS officer under investigation for leaving police dog in hot car

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DPS officer under investigation for leaving police dog in hot car

CREATED Jul 11, 2012 - UPDATED: Jul 12, 2012

Update:  Late Thursday afternoon DPS announced that Jeg took a turn for the worse, and has had to be euthanized.  Click here for an updated story.

Reporter: Kevin Keen

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A K-9 whose job it is to protect and serve has taken a turn for the worse at a Tucson veterinary clinic. The Arizona Department of Public Safety said an officer forgot the dog in a hot car Wednesday. That officer is on administrative leave, the agency told 9 On Your Side.

A DPS spokesman said the dog, named Jeg, has been on the force, sniffing out drugs, for three years. The agency said Jeg's partner, an officer, forgot him in a squad car in the Tucson headquarters parking lot for more than an hour.

“When he was found, he was obviously overheated with a high temperature,” Officer David Hopkins said.

DPS said firefighters rushed Jeg, a belgian malinois, to a veterinarian in critical condition.

The agency would not name the officer responsible, but explained the six-year veteran had quickly switched vehicles to rush to a crash scene and left Jeg behind around noon.

There is an internal DPS investigation into what happened, as well as an outside one by the Tucson Police Department.

“They're officers just like we are,” Hopkins told 9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen. “Our canines--they're a great asset to us. They're our dogs. They're our officers. We treat them as such.”

9 On Your Side found the outside air temperature on record at around noon was at least 97 degrees.

“It can be a very dangerous situation in a matter of minutes,” said veterinarian Jack Quick of Pantano Animal Clinic.

Quick said the temperature rises quickly inside a car and canines are especially sensitive to the heat.

“Dogs have a total different cooling mechanism,” Quick said. “They don't sweat like you and I do. They have to pant. So, if they are breathing very confined, hot air all the time, their cooling mechanisms go down dramatically."

It is that heat and the dog's condition that's led to dozens of 9 On Your Side viewers wanting to know what will happen to the officer.

It's too early to tell. A DPS spokesman in Phoenix said Tucson police will look to see if the officer was negligent, reckless or broke the law. DPS' review will see if he violated any agency policies.

KGUN9 viewers are speaking out about this case.   Click here for a sampling and a summary of what viewers have to say.