UPDATE (WBAY) -- Brown County K-9 Wix died of heat exhaustion/hyperthermia after a failure of the air conditioning and a K-9 heat alarm in a squad car, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office held a news conference Friday afternoon to release the findings of an investigative report on the August 12 death of Wix at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Chief Deputy Todd Delain told reporters that Deputy Austin Lemberger, Wix’s handler, violated no policy or procedure during the incident. He’s never been placed on any administrative leave in connection to Wix’s death.
3:30 a.m.: Deputy Lemberger leaves for duty at the PGA Championship, making sure the Ace K-9 Hot-n-Pop heat alarm is functioning. The K-9 heat alarm is designed to alert a handler when the temperature in the squad reaches a dangerous level. The car’s horn will blow, two rear windows will open and a siren will go off.
5 a.m.: Deputy Lemberger and Wix arrive at Whistling Straits for assignment. After sweeping for explosives, the deputy takes Wix back to the squad for rest at about 6:30 a.m. (K-9 officers are on duty when they are outside of a squad, according to officers. That is why the dogs are either taken home, put in a kennel or placed in the back of a squad car for rest between cycles, police said.)
Deputy Lemberger prepares to get breakfast. He checks the squad to make sure the air is functioning and that Wix has plenty of water, and that a rear window is rolled down half way–standard operating procedures for K-9 handlers.
Lemberger returns, lets out Wix for 15 minutes of training. He places Wix back in the squad, checking the air conditioning and water level in Wix’s dish.
7:45 a.m.: Deputy Lemberger and another deputy conduct security sweeps without their K-9s.
9:15 a.m.: The deputies return to their squad cars. Deputy Lemberger lets out Wix for some training. Wix is placed back in the squad and Lemberger checks the air conditioning and water again.
Deputy Lemberger goes inside a bomb truck to monitor events at the tournament.
11:20 a.m.: Deputy Lemberger lets out Wix for a third break lasting about 15 minutes. He places Wix back in the squad and checks the air and water dish.
12:22 p.m.: Deputy Lemberger’s shift ends. He goes to open the doors to his squad and feels hot air. He finds Wix unresponsive. He pulls Wix from the car and attempts First Aid. Wix had no pulse and was not breathing.
Deputy Lemberger checks the squad and finds that the fan for the air conditioning is not working.
At no time did the Hot-n-Pop alarm alert him to a potential issue.
Chief Deputy Delain said it was 70-74 degrees during the time Wix perished in the squad. The vehicle was parked in an open field with no available shade.
The Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation and had a 3rd party company–Baycom Incorporated–look into the failure of the heat alarm. Both reports found no problem with the installation of the alarm. Ace K-9 is sending a representative to Green Bay next week to conduct an inspection to determine why the alarm failed.
The Sheriff’s Office said the squad had about 110,000 miles and received routine maintenance. There was no known problem with the air conditioning before that day.
A necropsy was performed on Wix to see if the dog had underlying health issues. Doctors found that Wix had an enlarged heart, but that it did not play a role in his death. Doctors said animals like Wix are very physically fit, and that can cause some enlargement of a heart.
The investigative report recommended the Sheriff’s Office take steps to make improvements so the death of a K-9 does not reoccur.
Among those recommendations–purchasing and mounting a fan in windows; having a handler leave down rear windows when away for a long period of time; upgrading the heat alarm system; and having the squads undergo checks on the air conditioning in May and August.
Chief Deputy Delain says the death of Wix has been very difficult for Deputy Lemberger. He said the deputy is committed to the K-9 program.
Deputy Delain says the incident will be covered by insurance.
The department is in the process of getting a new K-9.
BROWN COUNTY (WKOW) --- The Brown County Sheriff's Office will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Friday on the death of their K9 Wix.
The press conference will have information into the investigation.
K9 Wix died August 12 while working at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straights. Wix was in the squad car and officials say the air conditioning malfunctioned , along with the squad's heat alarm.
We will update this information as we learn more.