K9 officer dies after being left in patrol car

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — A police K-9 has died after investigators said its handler left the dog in the back of a patrol car for nearly three hours.

The Cherokee County Marshal’s Office and the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office were called out to the home of Cherokee County School police Lt. Daniel Peabody Friday after getting a call that the police dog had died.

The officer told investigators he arrived home around 4:15 p.m. and left the 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Inka in the back of the car, with the engine turned off, while he dealt with another dog inside his home.

"He gets out, turns the car off, gets busy with his wife helping another dog, and apparently he simply forgot about the dog, accidentally," said Cherokee County Marshal's Office Chief Ron Hunton.

Around 7 p.m., the officer remembered he left Inka in the car and found the dog had died.

Temperatures that day reached the 90s, and Hunton says it got much warmer inside the car.

The Marshal's Office says the squad car Peabody used that day was not one of the department's K-9 vehicles.

According to the Sheriff's Office, Peabody let another officer use his K-9 squad car. One of the department's vehicles outfitted to handle a K-9 officer was out of service.

The vehicle Peabody was using didn't have any alarms or a kennel.

Hunton says Peabody was so upset by Inka's death he had trouble  breathing and passed out.

"Peabody was very distraught, very despondent over it, naturally, even to the point where he was transported to the hospital last night," Hunton said.

Investigators said Inca's necropsy has been completed at the University of Georgia.

A Marshal's Office spokesman says criminal charges are possible in this case, but explained the department's investigation is not complete.