Police K9 death sparks outrage

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

The dog ripped up the interior of the vehicle as it tried in vain to escape. Investigators believe she died from heat stroke.

WARWICK, Ga. - Weeks after a K9 police dog died while trapped in the back of her handler's SUV, hundreds of people are going online to try and get justice for the dog.

Warwick Police said Sasha the Dutch Shepherd died after it was trapped in the back of her handler's SUV for three days while the handler was out of town. The dog ripped up the interior of the vehicle as it tried in vain to escape. Investigators believe she died from heat stroke.

The handler, Lt. T.J. Frye, told investigators he believes the dog somehow let herself into the SUV while he was away for the weekend. Once he found her body, he said he buried her in his own backyard. City officials didn't learn about the death for nearly two weeks. Frye has since resigned from the police department. The dog's body has been exhumed for a necropsy.

Supporters have started a Facebook page called, "Justice for K9 Sasha," with more than 3000 friends. They've also started an online petition asking the state and Worth County District Attorney's office for a complete investigation.

The city of Warwick also contacted Chamblee-based Deceased Pet Care Funeral Home to ask about a proper K9 burial for Sasha, something that company said it does free of charge.

"We were upset to hear what had happened and all down there," said Deceased Pet Care owner Keith Shugart. "These K9 service dogs are basically police officers. They put their lives on the line each and every day for us, and it's just a shame that if she wasn't given a proper burial."

Deceased Pet Care has interred more than 40 police K9's in its Gwinnett County cemetery and offers funerals with complete police honors.

Douglas County Sheriff's Deputies K9 unit vehicles are equipped with heat sensors and alarms that sound if the car gets too hot for dogs. The cars also automatically roll down the windows so an animal can get fresh air.

Lt. Michael Barnhill has been with Douglas County's K9 unit for 17 years. He heard about the Worth County incident,but didn't want to comment directly on the case. He did say the bond between a K9 and its handler is absolute.

"It's a strong bond," said Barnhill. "We depend on the dogs, of course, to do our jobs. They depend on us to make sure they get the necessities they need. We tell folks, and I believe we're honest when we tell them we spend more time with our dogs than we do with our families."

The Worth County Sheriff's Office and Animal Control are investigating Sasha's death.


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