Yakima County coroner’s cadaver dog safer in the heat thanks to new alarm system

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. — While other dogs can usually stay at home when it’s over 100 degrees outside, the K9 officers in Yakima County have a job to do and can’t always avoid the heat.

Yakima County coroner Jim Curtice said thanks to a donation from K9 Foundation Yakima Valley, he now has a new emergency system in his vehicle to keep his cadaver dog, Justice, safe if the air conditioning fails.

Curtice said the dog has his own area in the back of the coroner’s truck with air conditioning, access to water and a temperature gauge to let him know whether Justice is safe.

“At 78 degrees, the alarm will sound the windows will go down and the doors are open,” Curtice said. “That way, he’s able to stay in the truck and it takes a lot of worry off me as well.”

Curtice said it’s a relief to know Justice will be safe because he’s a good dog and a good resource for the county. So far, he’s found human remains four times.

However, Curtice said all the times he hasn’t found remains are just as valuable, because it cuts down on the amount of time a person would have to spend searching.

“A lot of times, we’ll get a request to go search an area because of a rumor or something like that and so we’ll search the area and kind of rule it out,” Curtice said.

READ: ‘Suspects just give up’: New equipment helps Yakima K9 officers get into attics

K9 programs in Yakima County receive little to no funding on their own. Curtice said without an initial grant from Legends Casino in Toppenish, he wouldn’t have been able to purchase a cadaver dog in the first place.

Curtice said he’s also thankful for Earthwise Pet in Yakima, which has been donating dog food for Justice since he started working in the county in 2019.

Additionally, Curtice said without the donation from K9 Foundation Yakima Valley, extra safety measures like this likely wouldn’t be an option for Justice.

“They have very great supporters and donors out there,” Curtice said. “I was assured, anything we need, go to them, they will find a way to make it happen.”

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