ROUND ROCK, Texas — A 7-year-old Siberian husky that was in the car at the moment its driver was arrested for DWI died after the car’s engine and air conditioning turned off, Round Rock police said.
At around 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, officers responded to a report of a reckless driver in the 100 block of University Oaks Blvd.
As officers began the DWI investigation, they left the engine of the suspect’s car running and the air conditioning turned on, according to the Round Rock Police Department. The driver was arrested for DWI. Round Rock Police said the back-up Officer remained on scene, parked behind the car until Animal Control arrived.
“At some point while an officer was waiting for Animal Control, the engine turned off on its own, unbeknownst to the officer,” RRPD said.
When Animal Control arrived, the dog, named Landa, was found dead. Round Rock police said Animal Control arrived more than an hour after the beginning of the DWI investigation. The owner was immediately notified of the death, police said.
Landa's body was sent to College Station for a necropsy to confirm the cause of death.
“This was an unfortunate incident and we are trying to determine how this happened,” RRPD said.
When KVUE asked if the officers involved are being investigated, they said:
"We are looking into this case to determine what happened and how the car’s engine turned off. The preliminary investigation has determined the officers did not turn off the vehicle."
KVUE reporter Conner Board spoke with Benjamin, the brother of the woman who was arrested for DWI. Benjamin asked that we do not use his last name to protect the privacy of his sister. He knew Landa very well, and sometimes walked him when his sister was at work.
"He was a very funny dog, a very talkative husky, very playful, curious, friendly," said Benjamin. "Everybody that encountered him absolutely loved him."
Benjamin said he was actually on the phone with his sister when she got pulled over, and that he had been looking for her throughout the day.
"My sister understands her responsibility in getting into that position in the first place," said Benjamin. "But once police pulled her over and took control of the scene and started their investigation, that put the dog in their care and that made the dog their responsibility. And they failed to execute that responsibility."
Benjamin said he does not understand how this happened and that the officer should have been properly supervising Landa.
"It just blows my mind that an officer can make the conscious choice to leave an animal in a vehicle in August in Texas. I just don't understand. And at one o'clock in the afternoon, I'll never understand," said Benjamin.
KVUE meteorologists say that at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, when this traffic stop started, it was 97 degrees in Austin. If the car had no air conditioning for an hour, they say temperatures could reach 130 degrees.
Benjamin wishes Round Rock police would have called a family member to get the dog, rather than Animal Control. Police say general protocol is to call Animal Control, unless a family member is at the scene.
"It would have taken 45 seconds to have my sister unlock her phone, and they could have seen that I had called her four or five times in that time," said Benjamin. "And it would have taken 30 seconds to tell me I need to come get this dog. And I could have gone and gotten him."
As Benjamin thinks about Landa, he said it is hard to reflect on the happy memories when all he can think about is how he died.
“Just picturing him in the back of a car, burning up – it's sickening honestly," said Benjamin.
Benjamin hopes changes can be made to prevent this from happening again.
"I do want the police held accountable, these police officers, for the death of this dog," said Benjamin. "And I'm really hoping that perhaps there'll be a policy review of the Round Rock Police Department to see what can be done to make sure that this doesn't happen to anyone else's pets."
KVUE asked Round Rock police if they leave their own police K9s unattended in cars. They said that they actually do, but this is because the Round Rock police K9 vehicles have a temperature alert alarm system and equipment that activates to cool down the car if it gets too hot.
The City of Round Rock also put an ordinance in place in 2018 that "bans leaving an animal in a standing or parked vehicle in such a way as to endanger the animal’s health or safety."
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