Mysterious death of drug dog prompts sheriff’s investigation

Canine handler Deputy Victor Green, is shown with Rex, the county's drug sniffing dog last July. Rex died unexpectedly recently. Rich Cooley/Daily file

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office has called in the state veterinarian to conduct an autopsy after the mysterious death Monday of Rex, the agency’s drug detection dog.

Deputy Victor A. Green found the 4 1/2-year old Belgian Malinois dead in a Sheriff’s Office K-9 equipped vehicle at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock where Green works as a school resource officer. Green was also Rex’s handler on the department’s drug detection team.

Sheriff Timothy C. Carter described the death as “untimely” in a written statement issued Tuesday.

Maj. Scott Proctor said Rex was last seen alive 30 or 40 minutes before his death when Green stopped by the K-9 vehicle to check on his well being. Proctor said the dog appeared to be in excellent health and ready for work.

Rex suffered from no known illness and had just been re-certified as a drug detection dog earlier in the day, Proctor said. No evidence of external injury or any unusual activity around the dog has been found.

“It’s a mystery,” Proctor said of the cause of death. “We are conducting an investigation and will be awaiting the results of an autopsy.”

Rex started his service with the Sheriff’s Office in July after completing several weeks of certification training under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Proctor said the Sheriff’s Office acquired Rex from a U.S. government vendor. The dog had previously served with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, but Proctor was unsure of the dog’s exact role overseas.

Proctor said the loss was a blow to Green, who had trained with Rex in obtaining certification as a drug detection team.

“This was basically this deputy’s partner,” Proctor said of Rex. “It can be a tough thing to deal with.”

Proctor said the vehicle in which Rex died was specially equipped for transporting a dog and keeping it comfortable with food, water and air conditioning. Proctor said the windows on the vehicle were “probably down” on a day in which temperatures reached into the 80s.

“There was no indication the vehicle overheated,” Proctor said.

Proctor had no specific information on how much the Sheriff’s Office spent in acquiring, training and caring for Rex, but he estimated the purchase cost alone was probably several thousand dollars.

p id=’reporter_info’>Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com