GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Detectives with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said a 6-and-a-half-year-old K9 Officer, Robbie, most likely died of heat exhaustion. The dog was found on Friday in the back of an SUV belonging to his handler, Deputy Tommy Wilcox.
After going to a SWAT situation that day, detectives said Deputy Wilcox went home, put away his gear and went to meet his family.
"At some point, Deputy Wilcox realized that Robbie, his K9 was possibly still in the vehicle, not in the home, returned to the residence, at which time, Robbie was found deceased in the back of the patrol vehicle," explained Lieutenant Brandon Kutner, with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
There are safety features on all the K9 SUVs. For example, Kutner said when it reaches a certain temperature inside the vehicle, the windows automatically roll down and a fan turns on. However, the SUV has to be on for it to work. Detectives said it's not likely the SUV was on and running at the time.
The Criminal Investigations Division is investigating the case. Lt. Kutner added, "As with any investigation, there is a possibility based on the findings that criminal actions could be taken towards Deputy Wilcox; however, it's too early in the investigation."
Wilcox is on leave. "He's devastated. Robbie has been his partner for the last six years," Lt. Kutner explained.
Wilcox has had other K9 dogs. In 2008, Wilcox adopted retired K9 dog Kozar and chose to euthanize the aging dog by shooting it. Kutner said that wasn't illegal, but it did spark a policy change requiring current or former K9 dogs be euthanized by a licensed vet.
Kutner said "If the handler decides they are unable to pay for those services, the Sheriff's Office will provide the funding to have that dog euthanized."
The Sheriff’s Office has eight other K9s on the force. Kurner said it is too early to tell if Wilcox will get another dog.