Humane Society calls for investigation into police dog death

A former police officer whose canine partner died after being left in a patrol vehicle for three days should be charged with a felony, the Georgia Humane Society said Friday.

The group plans to dig up the remains of the 10-year-old Dutch Shepherd so an investigation can begin, the group’s president told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“If you kill or harm a police dog or horse, it’s a felony,” Joan Weatherford Sammond, president of the Georgia Humane Society said. “We need to retrieve the remains to determine a cause of death and rule out natural causes, even though the evidence is really valid.”

The dog, Sasha, was found dead Sept. 3 inside the Chevrolet Tahoe belonging to her handler, Lt. T.J. Frye of the Warwick Police Department in South Georgia, according to a Warwick police report. Frye returned home from a three-day trip to find the animal inside the vehicle. He later buried Sasha in his own yard.

Inside the vehicle were horrific signs that the dog tried to escape, including ripped seat belts, bite marks in the leather seats, scratches on the windows, and broken rear-view mirror, the police report said.

The chief of the police department didn’t file a report on the dog’s death until Sept. 14, following questions from local media outlets, according to the man who gave the narcotics dog to the city, free of charge.

“Lt. Frye stated that Sasha must have let herself inside the vehicle over the weekend while he was out of town,” the Warwick police report states.

Frye called the city’s maintenance worker to help him remove the dog from the SUV, which was full of flies and smelled of decay, the report states.

Frye has resigned from his job as an officer in Warwick, which has a population of about 400, but no charges have been filed in the case. The dog’s death has outraged people across Georgia, including more than 6,500 who had joined a Facebook group titled Justice for K-9 Sasha by Saturday morning. Dozens attended a rally in support of Sasha held Friday night near Warwick, where car window stickers with the dog’s picture were passed out.

“It was negligence,” Sammond told the AJC. “How do you leave your dog in the car, in the hot, August sun in Georgia? Why does he get to walk? He was negligent, and nothing was done.”

Frye could not be reached for comment. The Worth County Sheriff’s Office has not investigated the case, despite Frye’s home being in its jurisdiction, Sammond said.

A message left for the sheriff’s office was not immediately returned Friday afternoon. It was not known whether the the Worth County District Attorney’s Office intended to investigate the case. The DA was not in the office Friday afternoon due to serving at a murder trial, a spokeswoman in the office said.

Ray Bedal, a retired police officer who spent 35 years with the Miami-Dade County Police Department in Florida, said he was shocked to learn how Sasha likely spent her final days. Bedal, now of Moultrie, helped orchestrate Sasha’s move from a south Florida force to Warwick.

Her previous police department had wanted Sasha to be cross-trained, able to sniff out both human suspects and narcotics, Bedal said. But Sasha was too gentle, and terrified of thunder and lightning, to be of further use to her department.

Still, Sasha wasn’t suited for retirement in 2010 at the age of 8, Bedal said.

“The dog enjoyed going to work more than it enjoyed staying at home,” Bedal said.

Bedal arranged for Sasha to be transported from the Miami area to Warwick, where his own son previously worked as the police chief.

“Sasha brought the city of Warwick thousands upon thousands of dollars in drug money, but most importantly, it was getting the drugs off the street,” Bedal said. “The dog was saving lives.”

Bedal says for all of her work, Sasha deserved better than to be buried in a backyard.

The owner of an Atlanta-based pet funeral home told the AJC her company will handle the funeral arrangements for Sasha, once any investigation into the dog’s death is complete. Deceased Pet Care Funeral Homes and Crematories offers discounted rates for K-9 funerals and services, owner Donna Shugart-Bethune said.

“We basically donate all of our times and services,” Shugart-Bethune said. “When a human takes on a K-9 officer, it’s a part of their family. We try to really do as much as we can.”

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