ST. GEORGE — A former Utah sheriff’s deputy was sentenced for recklessly causing the death of his patrol dog when he left him in a hot patrol truck to die.
Jason Whittier, a former K-9 handler with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office, appeared in 1st District Court before Judge Thomas Willmore for sentencing Monday after pleading no contest in October to class B misdemeanor aggravated cruelty to an animal.
Willmore sentenced Whittier to six months in jail. However, the judge suspended the jail time so long as Whittier abides by the terms of his plea deal.
Willmore ordered Whittier to perform 100 hours of community service, specifying that at least half of those hours must be spent working with a local animal shelter “on ways to inform the public about the dangers to animals and humans … being left in hot vehicles,” according to court documents.
Whittier is also required to submit a two-page summary for law enforcement agencies of suggested policies or procedures that could prevent similar future incidents.
Whittier will remain on probation for up to one year while he completes these requirements.
The charge stems from a July 3 incident in which Whittier unintentionally left his K-9 partner Endy – an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois – in an unattended patrol truck, resulting in the K-9’s death from heat exhaustion, according to the Cache County Sheriff’s Office.
That day, Whittier returned home from work around noon and parked his patrol truck, with Endy inside, in an area subjected to direct sunlight most of the day, court documents state. He then left his residence to participate in family activities.
When Whittier returned home at approximately 11:30 p.m., he realized Endy was not in his outside kennel, according to court documents. Whittier then discovered Endy, dead, still secured inside the truck.
Whittier lost his law enforcement job following the incident.
As a result of the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said it is actively pursuing new technology wherein all K-9 units will be equipped with end-of-shift warning systems in which handlers would be forced to manually shut down the security system.
The system gives verbal warnings to the handler to remove the K-9 from the vehicle before activating horns, lights and sirens until the dog is safely removed.
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