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Indiana investigation sought after truck’s air conditioning fails, 10 dogs inside die

Indiana investigation sought after truck’s air conditioning fails, 10 dogs die

CROWN POINT, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana State Police have been asked to investigate after 18 adult German shepherds were found suffering from heatstroke on a box truck at a gas station, the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office says.

Ten of the dogs died.

The Humane Society of Hobart Inc. says the dogs were found just before 7:45 p.m. July 27 in the truck at the Road Ranger convenience store and gas station that’s just southeast of the I-94 interchange for U.S. 6 in the city of Lake Station.

The dogs were being taken from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to a training facility in Michigan, the prosecutor’s office said in a news release shared Thursday from Indiana State Police.

The Lake Station Police Department previously shared on social media that the truck got caught in a two-hour traffic delay on I-94 when the air conditioning failed.

Temperatures in the Chicago area reached 92 degrees on July 27, the National Weather Service said.

“Since the cargo area was separated, the driver wasn’t aware at the time that the AC unit failed which caused some of the canines to go into heat related medical distress. The driver’s attention as to what was going on inside the cargo area was alerted to him by some of the canines barking,” said the Lake Station police’s post.

The driver discovered the dogs were in distress after stopping at the police station. The driver began removing the German shepherds from crates, prompting 911 calls.

The Lake Station Police Department’s post also said it believed that “this was not an act of animal cruelty or neglect but a mechanical failure of the AC unit that was being used in the cargo area.”

Police have not named the driver.

However, the Humane Society of Hobart Inc. felt differently, posting Aug. 1 on social media that some of the dogs “were dying at the scene.”

The humane society post also said, “Based on what we witnessed and how the scene was processed, we feel this warrants an independent investigation, legal, corrective, and disciplinary action take place where applicable, and that our contract and code be reviewed with the City of Lake Station immediately.”

Jennifer Webber, executive director of the humane society, said on July 27, “There were already several dogs dead on the scene, and multiple failing fast. Their crates inside the truck were completely trashed on the inside, and the little water bowls were the size you’d give a parrot. And they were empty and torn up as if the dogs were exasperated.”

Webber said she encountered resistance when attempting to gather facts for her investigation. The police officer in charge of the scene told her she could leave because the deaths were an accident that “the owner will take care of.”

The owner, who was driving the vehicle, used abusive language, cursed at her and refused to produce health certificates, Webber said. Such paperwork is typically signed by veterinarians in each state involved and required to move dogs across borders for commerce.

The humane society had a vigil for the animals at a Lake Station park on Aug. 3.

The animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals had called for a state police investigation, and the prosecutor’s office formally requested one Wednesday.

PETA said, in a statement issued Thursday night, that it learned Lake Station Police Chief James Richardson “had an existing relationship” the owner and operator of the company that was transporting the dogs.

CNN contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to the report.


“The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office has requested the Indiana State Police Department to investigate the heat-related deaths of at least eight dogs who were being transported by FMK9 to a training facility inside an unventilated box truck last month. Please see the following statement from PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch:

“‘Nothing can bring back the dogs who slowly baked to death inside an airless, hot truck, but this is a step in the right direction toward ensuring that those responsible for their terrible suffering are held accountable and that preventative measures are put in place to avoid a devastating repeat. PETA joined the Humane Society of Hobart and the Lake Station community in pushing for this third-party investigation and trusts that the Indiana State Police Department (which has previously purchased K-9s from this company), will proceed with due diligence, for the sake of the dogs, the public’s faith, and the law.’

“‘Nearly 20 dogs were apparently left to bake in 91-degree heat — a temperature at which the inside of a vehicle can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes — while the driver sat in traffic for hours. According to reports, when he finally pulled over, several dogs were already dead — and although representatives of the Humane Society of Hobart were on the scene almost immediately, the Lake Station Police Department blocked them from assisting the distressed dogs, forcing rescuers who had access to multiple air-conditioned vehicles to stand by as dogs suffered. The police then allowed the driver to leave the scene with both deceased and live dogs unsecured in the open back of the truck. PETA has discovered that Lake Station Police Chief James Richardson apparently had an existing relationship with the owner and operator of the company that was transporting the dogs, Mike McHenry of FMK9.’

“‘In the weeks that followed the incident, PETA called out the Lake Station Police Department for censoring public comments calling for justice for the dogs. The group sent a letter to City Attorney Frank J. Koprcina and Police Chief James Richardson, warning them that the department’s practice of deleting, hiding, and restricting critical social media comments about the incident was a violation of the First Amendment. The group also led supporters in a demonstration outside Lake Station City Hall calling for an independent investigation.’”

Statement from Brittney Williams, public relations coordinator for Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

A man helps a dog suffering from heat-related injury at the Road Ranger convenience store in Lake Station, Indiana, on July 27, 2023. (Photo Provided/Jennifer Webber, Humane Society of Hobart Inc. via AP and CNN)