HENDERSON (KSNV News3LV) — A family dog left in the care of Henderson Animal Control died after he was forgotten in a hot city vehicle until the next morning.
According to the City of Henderson, on July 29, a 9-year-old Shih-Tzu dog died in the care of Henderson Animal Control. The dog, who family identifies as Mr. Chops, was picked up as a stray and transported to a local veterinarian in Henderson on Thursday, July 28. Through the dog's microchip, the vet was able to determine who the dog belonged to.
The dog was picked up by a Henderson Animal Control Officer to be transported to the Animal Care and Control Facility until the owner could pick up the dog. After returning to the facility, the dog was unintentionally left in the kennel in the vehicle. The next day, the dog was discovered deceased. The family was notified in person by a Henderson Police deputy chief, people from Animal Control and a grief counselor.
"I can't believe that he's gone," said 17-year-old Brandon Whipple. "We've had him ever since I was a kid. I'm currently going into senior year and it's sad to see him go."
Brandon and his family say Mr. Chops disappeared Wednesday night. They say they searched for him for hours and for several days continued to look for him, not only outside, but also on shelter websites in case he shows up. On Monday, Brandon's father Jim, was on his way to go to the Henderson Animal Shelter when he found a group from the city at his doorstep, there to explain what happened to Mr. Chops.
"It just takes your breath away just thinking about the suffering that he had to go through," said Jim Whipple.
"On behalf of the Henderson Animal Control staff, I wish to extend our sympathies to the family of the dog who lost its life while under our care. This is the first time this type of incident has occurred at the Henderson Animal Care and Control Facility and the staff is devastated by the accidental death of the dog," said Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers in a statement.
"The staff is currently reviewing policy to address the process for impounding and delivering animals from the animal control vehicles to the facility. Though the staff does all they can to keep the animals safe while in our care, we'll work with our staff to ensure this unfortunate event does not occur again in the future," Moers continued.
Deputy Police Chief Jeff Stilson says before the incident, there were no procedures in place to make sure animals are not left in vehicles after a shift. Effective immediately, he says there are a couple policy changes in effect. First, all of animal control is required to check their truck at the beginning and end of the shift. This will ensure there are no animals left in the vehicle. Also, a new policy instituted requires animal control officers, calls permitting, to respond immediately back to the shelter to drop off an animal after pick up.
"This has never happened in the city of Henderson. We've been around since 1953. We average about 4,000 animal intakes per year and over 2300 of them are dogs. If you add that up throughout the years, we've never had one like this. This is our first. It's horrible and we hope this never happens again," said Deputy Chief Stilson.
He adds there is an internal investigation into what happened and the officer involved. However, Jim Whipple says he hopes this tragic mistake won't cost the officer's job.
"We're all human. It's a loss of life whether it's a pet or not, it's a loss of life, but again, I'm sure this officer is a fabulous officer and has done a lot of good. We'd certainly like to know he's okay emotionally. We hope that he's alright," he said. "He's done so much for the lost animals. He cares for them. He's generally a good officer, so it is a mistake."
Jonathan Whipple, the brother of the man who claims to own Mr. Chops, posted this message about the incident on his Facebook page:
"This morning, my Dad was visited by the Assistant Chief, Shift Commander and Grievance Counselor of the Henderson County Police Department, because Mr. Chops was left in the back of the city's Animal Control van over the weekend and as he tried to claw his way out of the vehicle, HE WAS COOKED TO DEATH," he said in the post.
"I'm always shocked when I hear of people leaving pets or children in cars, especially when it's in the sun, but for this to be a licensed professional, employed by the city - it is completely inexcusable," said Whipple in the Facebook post.