Handler who left K9 in hot car charged with animal cruelty

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Totti (Photo Credit: Pa. Department of Corrections)

Harrisburg, PA – The dog handler who allegedly left a K9 unit in a hot car in July, leading to the dog’s death, has been charged with cruelty to animals. State Police charged Chad Holland, 40, of Lock Haven, for leaving the K9 unit ‘Totti,’ a 2 year-old Labrador Retriever trained as a drug detection dog, in a vehicle at SCI Rockview on July 7th. Holland did not provide Totti sustenance, drink, and access to cool shelter that would have protected him against the dangerous heat which caused his death, according to the State Police report.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections also issued a release. Totti’s death was a tragedy that deeply saddened the DOC community. Secretary John Wetzel says he is committed to ensuring such a devastating event never occurs again.

Holland and his supervisor were removed from their positions with the Drug Interdiction Unit.

“We took the death of Totti very seriously and have taken a number of steps to ensure our K9s are safe no matter the weather,” said Secretary Wetzel. “These K9s are valued members of the DOC law enforcement team and we are committed to keeping them safe in our care.”

Actions taken to date are:

Change of Leadership in the Drug Interdiction Unit.

• The two individuals involved, a captain and a sergeant, were reassigned to positions at SCI Rockview.
• A senior DOC officer with military K9 experience has been assigned to lead the Drug Interdiction Unit.

A written K9 policy directive has been implemented outlining the care and handling of K9s in-vehicle, and while on-duty or off-duty

• No K9s will be left in the vehicle for any reason when the handler is not in vehicle.
• When deployed overnight the handler and K9 will stay in pet friendly hotels.
• Placards will be posted on dashboard constantly reminding the handler of K9 in vehicle.

The DOC has purchased portable kennels and every institution now has a portable kennel where the K9 will be placed on downtime. Also, each handler was issued a portable kennel in the event they are out in the community conducting work.

The DOC is in the process of tinting windows/and adding rain guards to assist in climate control for the K9s.

The DOC also is examining the purchase of extreme weather alarm equipment for K9 vehicles.

On July 7, 2016, Totti, a member of the Drug Interdiction Unit team, was left unattended in a hot vehicle for three hours. The two-year-old dog was unconscious but alive when he was discovered. First aid was rendered at the scene and he was rushed to an area veterinarian. Despite the emergency treatment, Totti died several hours later from a heat-related seizure while in veterinary care.