A Bexar County Sheriff’s deputy was placed on administrative leave this week after the two police dogs he cared for were left inside a sweltering county vehicle overnight, killing them, authorities said.

Metro daily – Deputy Steve Benoy, left, of the Bexar County Sheriff K9 Unit salutes as he holds his dog Blitz, as taps are played for Andor, badge number 007, who was retired today during a memorial service after passing away June 27, 2007, Friday, July 6, 2007

Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Benoy, who has been with the office for 23 years, is on a 10-day leave while the department investigates the deaths of the two Belgian Malinois. Although authorities said they believe the dogs suffered from apparent heat exhaustion, Animal Care Services is conducting a necropsy.

According to Deputy Chief Ronald “Dale” Bennett, Benoy drove the dogs to his Adkins home, 23 miles east of San Antonio, after he got off work around 2 p.m. Tuesday, just like he did every day.

“He had a routine,” Bennett said.

But Benoy then left town for the night. When he returned home Wednesday, the dogs weren’t where he usually keeps them when at home, Bennett said.

Instead, Benoy found the dogs where he had left them: in a county-owned Chevrolet Tahoe fitted with dog kennels. Animal Care Services was called to retrieve the bodies.

Officials did not immediately release the names and ages of the dogs, but Bennett said one was a narcotics dog and the other was assigned to patrol.

“It’s just a very tragic accident,” Bennett said, adding that Benoy “is completely devastated.”

Benoy, who Bennett said has been a K-9 handler for 13 years and spent 10 years before that on patrol, declined to comment Thursday on the deaths.

The sheriff’s office is conducting dual investigations, one to rule out animal cruelty and the other for administrative purposes. Bennett said a decision on any further action against Benoy won’t be made until the investigation is complete.

“After the 10 days, it depends on what the investigation reveals,” Bennett said, adding that Benoy is “one of my most dedicated guys.”

According to state law, a person could face a charge of animal cruelty if the offense is committed “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” The charge is a Class A misdemeanor.

Two years ago, a Bexar County K-9 named Duke died of medical complications after he was left in a patrol car for 15 minutes with the air-conditioning running. Duke hadn’t been acting normal earlier in the day, officials said at the time, and his handler was making arrangements to take him to the veterinarian. No charges were brought in that case.

Handlers take their animals home overnight, Bennett said, and the county pays for their kennels. Benoy has other dogs of his own and also raises horses, he said. The county’s policy regarding care requirements for police dogs was not immediately available Thursday.

Sharon Gregory, the executive secretary of the Veterinary Medical Association of Bexar County who also manages a vet clinic, said handlers work with their police dogs during the day and go home together at night.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Deputy-put-on-leave-after-2-police-dogs-die-in-3737733.php#ixzz229GTB6RZ

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