Alabama Cop Won’t Be Charged in Dog’s Death in Hot Car

Last Thursday Corporal Josh Coleman of the Gulf Shores Police Department left his canine partner, Mason, in his patrol car while he attended a conference. Earlier, Mason had joined Coleman at the conference, where he was photographed (above), but was then put back in the car.

It’s not known how long Mason was left in the broiling vehicle. What is known is that the dog suffered from heatstroke and later died. According to, the GSPD has not offered details about what happened, though a statement from spokesman Sgt. Jason Woodruff reads, “Mason’s handler Corporal Josh Coleman forgot that Mason was still in the back seat of his patrol car. On discovering Mason’s absence, Cpl. Coleman located him in the vehicle.”

When found, the 3-year-old dog was taken to a veterinarian but died the next day.

Woodruff’s statement went on to say that “Mason was not an enforcement K-9. Enforcement K-9s spend a good deal of time in their handler's vehicles, so those vehicles are equipped with remote heat alarms, water bowls, and other protective measures. Because Mason's duties did not include long periods in a vehicle, those protective measures were not available in his handler's car.”

Woodruff also issued a word of caution to the community.

"This situation has been devastating for Cpl. Coleman and his family and we hope that they are able to work through their understandable emotions. This is a tragic occurrence that has left the entire organization mourning a terrible loss," he said.

It is a potent reminder to all dog owners that a dog should never be left unattended in a hot vehicle for any reason, even briefly. Not sure what constitutes “hot”? Always err on the side of caution, and remember that a dog’s body temperature is higher than ours.

The situation is so serious that it is a criminal offense in some states. If you see a dog left in a parked car in the heat, alert nearby security or call 911 or animal control.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation warns that heat-related canine conditions are serious if left untreated. It’s important to recognize the warning signs early. They include:

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Dry mouth, nose, and gums
  • Poor skin elasticity (this can be tested by gently pulling up on the skin at the back of the dog’s neck. It should spring back immediately. If it doesn’t, he may be dehydrated)
  • Sunken eyes
  • Disorientation, staggering

Learn more about preventing, spotting, and treating overheating

- Erika Mansourian


Photo courtesy