Death of police dog under investigation

Closed canine facility is focus of concern


Three months after the cancer deaths of two Baltimore County police dogs and health complaints from officers prompted the closing of the department's canine facility for environmental testing, another county police dog has died.

While officials await test results to determine the cause of the dog's death, two other animals that had spent significant time at the facility are undergoing physical examinations.

Two other police dogs had died of cancer since February, and a third was diagnosed with brain cancer. The facility, in a park built on top of a former landfill, was closed in early September after officials at the site complained of illnesses.

The cancer cases came two years after the department moved the center to Southwest Area Park in the Baltimore Highlands area. Before the move, the unit, which was created in 1961, had lost one dog to cancer.

About 30 employees at the facility have filed injury reports with the department, some complaining of headaches, dizziness and respiratory problems.

"Our concern absolutely surrounds the health of the members that we represent, and concerns of potentially what, if anything, they've been exposed to," Cole B. Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police, said yesterday.

An 8-year-old police dog named Harley died Friday, Weston said. He said the dog had been with the department for several years.

The county has hired a firm to test the soil at the facility for contaminants. Test results are expected in mid-January, Donald I. Mohler, spokesman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr., said yesterday.

Harley's body was sent to the University of Maryland for a necropsy to determine the cause of death, according to Mohler.

He said that two dogs from the canine unit that spent the most time at the facility have been sent to the University of Pennsylvania for examinations to determine whether they have any health problems.

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