SAN ANTONIO -- The Bexar County Sheriff's Department says two of its K-9s have died after they were left inside a hot patrol vehicle overnight.
According to a statement from the Sheriff's Office, the dogs were found dead Thursday morning from apparent heat exposure after being "inadvertently" left inside the vehicle overnight.
The deputy responsible, identified as Deputy Steve Benoy, has been placed on administrative leave as the Animal Care Services and the BCSO investigate the incident. He was described as a 23-year veteran who has been assigned to the K-9 unit for 13 years of his career with the BCSO.
According to the statement, Benoy is "completely devastated by the tragic accident."
Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said in the statement, "Deputy Benoy has been a dedicated officer during his career; he has never received any discipline during his tenure with the Sheriff's Office. It is my belief that this is a tragic accident however; the Sheriff's Office is following standard procedures in conducting a thorough investigation."
The Sheriff's Office is withholding any other comments until preliminary reports are obtained from the investigation, according to the released.
This is not the first time a Bexar County K-9 has died inside a vehicle.
In June 2010, a K-9 was left inside a cruiser that was parked outside the sheriff's training academy. The dog died while being rushed to the veterinarian's office.
Deputies later determined the 5-year-old dog died from preexisting medical issues.
Texas lawmakers had proposed a bill that would require heat alarms to be installed in all K-9 vehicles by 2011. However, the bill was never assigned to a committee.
The Bexar County Sheriff's Office had told KENS 5 in 2010, shortly after the first accidental K-9 death, that they would be installing the alarms in all five of their K-9 vehicles.
The sheriff's office would not confirm on Thursday whether or not the heat alarms were ever installed.
Don Barnes, of Voices for Animals in San Antonio, said the most recent accident is unacceptable.
"I'm pretty upset by that kind of irresponsibility and hope that changes can be made in the very near future," he said.
Nobody is perhaps more upset than Benoy, the deputy being held responsible for the dogs' deaths. In a 2010 interview with KENS 5, Benoy explained what it would be like to lose his K-9 companions.
"This would be just like losing a member of your family," he said. "I'm sure when a canine officer loses his companion, we all mourn."