Six dogs died after they were left in sweltering vans earlier this month at a private security facility in Moyock, N.C., one of the heads of the facility’s parent company said Tuesday.
Four employees of security contractor Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, have been fired over the incident and two others have resigned, according to Paul Donahue, the chief operating officer of Constellis, which owns Academi.
One of the company’s divisions trains dogs for law enforcement and private security use.
The incident occurred around noon on July 8 while two employees were cleaning out kennels, Donahue said. Temperatures were in the 90’s.
Donahue said the employees took 28 dogs out of the kennels and stored them in several ways – in travel crates, an enclosed yard and climate-controlled trailers. Six of them, a mix of German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, ended up in two vans.
An internal investigation revealed the air-conditioning wasn’t turned on in one of the vans, Donahue said. In the other, “it appeared to be blowing hot.”
All six of the dogs were owned by Academi, he said, and were in the vans for at least 35 minutes.
An independent veterinarian was called to the scene and verified the dogs were dead, he said.
Donahue said several safeguards to protect the dogs weren’t followed.
Kennel employees were reminded before the incident they were only supposed to remove four dogs at a time during kennel cleanings, he said.
Employees were also supposed to do what Donahue referred to as “bed checks,” taking photos of each dog in its kennel at noon and sending them to their supervisors to verify they were safe and in the proper location.
“The noon bed check came and went and the kennel handlers never sent the report up and nobody in the supervisory chain requested it,” Donahue said.
Two kennel employees, their manager and the director of the facility’s dog training program were fired and two more unspecified Academi employees resigned last Friday, he said. Another employee was reprimanded and Donahue said every employee has been retrained.
Constellis acquired another dog training company a week before the incident, which has been brought in to oversee the program at Academi, Donahue said.
“Our feelings are these dogs are just like our employees,” he said. “We’re extremely disappointed in the event and the factors within the event. … It’s opened our eyes.”
In addition to the retraining and oversight, the company is looking into technology it can use to monitor the dogs’ physical conditions.
Ryan Murphy, 757-446-2299, firstname.lastname@example.org