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Multiple dogs being transported to K-9 training facility die after truck’s air conditioner fails

The dogs were confined to crates in the truck’s separate cargo area; the driver pulled over after the dogs’ barking alerted him to their distress


Jennifer Webber/Humane Society of Hobart, Ind. via AP

By Alex Dalton
Post-Tribune, Merrillville, Ind.

LAKE STATION, Ill. — Multiple dogs being transported in a truck through Lake Station on Thursday died of heat-related illness after temperatures in the truck’s cargo area reached dangerous levels, according to Lake Station police, who drew criticism from the city’s contractual animal care provider over its alleged handling of the incident.

In a statement posted to Facebook early on Friday morning, the Lake Station Police Department wrote that the dogs were being transported from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to a training facility in Michigan City amid the day’s extreme heat.

The animals were confined to crates in the truck’s separate cargo area. The driver stopped on Ripley Street in Lake Station after the dogs’ barking alerted him to their distress, according to the statement, and called 911 after discovering the animals’ condition.

The police department characterized the incident as accidental.

“The Lake Station Police Department believes after speaking with the person(s) involved that this was not an act of animal cruelty or neglect but a mechanical failure of the AC unit that was being used in the cargo area,” the police department wrote.

Staff from the Humane Society of Hobart, Lake Station’s contractual animal care and control partner, soon arrived at the scene, alongside police, discovering that some of the animals had died.

Jennifer Webber, the Humane Society’s executive director, wrote in a statement released on Friday that she followed her organization’s standard procedures, asking the driver of the truck to provide vaccination records for the animals, along with permitted health certificates which establish temperatures safe for transport and a certified veterinary license required to transport the dogs across state lines.

When the driver did not comply, Webber said, she told him that she believed he was not in compliance with several local codes governing the treatment and transport of animals. She announced her intention to seize the surviving dogs and transport them to a veterinary hospital to receive emergency care, conduct an investigation and return the animals once compliance was proved and any fines and fees paid.

The driver again refused to comply, Webber said, and said he would not allow Humane Society staff to transport the animals in their vehicles. Police at the scene respected the driver’s wishes, and the animals were transported to two local animal hospitals by emergency medical services, which arrived later, according to Webber.

This decision and the resulting delay, Webber said, resulted in potentially unnecessary animal deaths, as some animals did not recover and were euthanized. The police department did not provide the number of dogs involved in the incident, nor the number that died.

“We have an amazing relationship with Lake Station animal control and Mayor Bill Carroll and the city council,” Webber told the Post-Tribune. “I have never conducted an animal investigation or assessment or acquisition like this before. It was completely out of protocol.”

In her statement, Webber voiced her intention to seize possession of the hospitalized dogs, of which she said there are five, citing Lake Station ordinances that empower the Humane Society to impound an animal “that is reasonably believed to have been abused or neglected"; and “dogs without current license tags.”

The animals, she said, can be reclaimed by their owner after the required documents are provided and fees are paid.

The Lake Station Police Department did not identify the driver, and did not return a request for comment on Friday afternoon.


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