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New bill introduced today would help protect police K9 officers from heat-related deaths

House Bill 1334, introduced by Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Centre) would require any emergency vehicle transporting a K9 officer be fitted with a K9 heat-detection device.
Credit: AP
FILE - The Pennsylvania state Capitol is seen on Dec. 14, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pa. A Pennsylvania court ruled Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, that special elections to fill three vacancies in Democratic-leaning state House districts will be held together next month, with partisan control of the chamber at stake. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A state lawmaker announced he's introducing legislation designed to protect police K9 officers from heat-related fatalities inside police vehicles.

State Rep. Scott Conklin, a Centre County Democrat, pointed to the recent heat-related death of a K9 officer in Georgia as a reason why House Bill 1334 should be passed.

“The tragic loss of a police K-9 to overheating in Georgia just yesterday is a somber reminder of the dangers our K-9 officers face, not just in Pennsylvania, but across the country,” Conklin said. “These loyal dogs risk their lives to protect and serve, and we must do our part to ensure their safety.”

The bill – informally known as Totti's Law to commemorate the K-9 officer that died from overheating in Pennsylvania in 2016 – would mandate that any emergency vehicle transporting a K-9 officer be fitted with a K-9 heat-detection device, Conklin said. 

These devices will trigger an alarm, honk the car horn and automatically lower the vehicle windows when a certain internal temperature is reached, potentially saving the lives of K-9 officers.

“This proposed legislation draws from painful experiences,” Conklin said. “Integrating these heat-detection devices into our police vehicles would prevent future tragedies, providing a safer environment for our K-9 officers.”

Conklin said the cost of the device – approximately $900 – is a small investment compared to the $20,000 cost of training a new police dog, but that there are concerns beyond the financial aspects.

"Our K-9 officers are an invaluable resource," Conklin said. "Preserving their safety and well-being is not just a fiscal matter – it's a moral obligation."

Conklin said several police departments already use this technology and urged colleagues to support the bill.

“We've seen the devastating effects of heat exhaustion in our K-9 officers,” Conklin said. “As legislators, it's our duty to prevent such incidents. In honor of those K-9 officers that have fallen, the resilience of their handlers and the invaluable service these dogs provide, let's enact this legislation and effect meaningful change.”

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