Florida community mourns K-9 officer Archer: 'You got one last bad guy off the street' (2024)

A community is mourning the loss of a K-9 officer who died after working to track down a suspect in the north central Florida heat last week.

The K-9 officer named Archer worked for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, about 55 miles east of Tallahassee. He died Friday at the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital in Gainesville, the sheriff’s office announced Friday afternoon.

“Archer was surrounded by his handler, fellow members of our canine unit and medical staff,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “Archer honorably fulfilled his duty by protecting our citizens, our communities, and our deputies without fear or hesitation.”

The 6-year-old German Shepherd was born in the Czech Republic in October 2017 and started working at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office the following year, the sheriff's office confirmed to USA TODAY Monday morning. He was trained in substance and drug detection, criminal apprehension and tracking.

He had been with his handler, Deputy Marcus Roell, for the past two years.

Florida community mourns K-9 officer Archer: 'You got one last bad guy off the street' (1)

Dog suffered "a heat episode," sheriff says

Madison County Sheriff David Harper shared news about the dog’s illness a day earlier on Facebook. In a video shared online, Harper asked community members to pray for Archer and said he was helping to find a felon that ran from deputies into a wooded area.

“Archer gave his all to ensure that there was no criminal roaming free in our community,” Harper said, adding that the dog suffered from “a heat episode.”

According to AccuWeather, temperatures were in the mid 90s that day.

The sheriff's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about precautions they take for K-9 officers in the heat.

The dog was rushed to a clinic where he was stabilized and then taken to another facility for emergency medical care.

He ended up at University of Florida Small Animal Hospital in Gainesville, where he received plasma transfusions. His condition was initially listed as stable, the office said.

Sheriff condemns 'hurtful' remarks after K-9 death

Sheriff Harper made a follow-up post Saturday after receiving comments that upset him regarding the dog’s death and his handler.

“I am aggravated about as much as I have been in a good while,” Harper wrote. “I am hurting over the loss of one of my dedicated service canines just as many in our community are. I just had to block a few people from the ability to comment on our page because these individuals were making hurtful and uneducated comments directed to my handler and his family.”

Harper said the person Archer was pursuing caused the incident. The individual was just a few hundred yards from someone’s home and Archer located him so he could be arrested, Harper said.

Florida community mourns K-9 officer Archer: 'You got one last bad guy off the street' (2)

“Yes it is hot,” Harper wrote. “No doubt about that. However, heat does not deter CRIMINALS and CRIME.”

“I will pray that your law enforcement officers would run through the gates of hell, led by a loyal and fierce canine, regardless of how hot it is, to ensure your safety, your home and your quality of life is never disturbed,” he added.

The sheriff's office previously shared photos of Archer and other K-9 officers on National Dog Day 2023.

"Celebrating our K9s today," the sheriff's office wrote, sharing photos of K-9 officers Archer, Riot, Madison, Max and Garmr.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, southeast of Madison County, posted in support of Archer.

“Our hearts are broken for Madison County Sheriff's Office, K9 Archer’s handler and family,” the department wrote.

“K9 Archer died in the line of duty today. While K9s are integral to our work, these faithful dogs are family. We know everyone at Madison is mourning this loss. Rest easy K9 Archer, you got one last bad guy off the street.”

What to know about dogs and hot weather

The sheriff's office said Archer died from "complications that developed that were caused by overheating."

The Humane Society of the United States offers tips for keeping pets safe in hot weather. According to the society, extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue seizure and in some cases, unconsciousness.

The society said people whose dogs are suffering from heat stroke should move the animals into shady spaces or air-conditioned areas, apply ice packs or cold towels to their heads, neck and chests or run cool water over them.

"Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes," the organization said. "Take them directly to a veterinarian."

The National Police Dog Foundation said on its website that heat injuries are typically grouped into two categories:

  1. Confinement heat injuries where the dogs are confined in a space that is too hot, such as a car without air conditioning or a crate in direct sunlight.
  2. Exertional heat injury where the dog is too hot from exercise or hard work.

"Currently, there is no known gadget, supplement, or product that can effectively and reliably keep your dog cool during hard exercise, and the best way to ensure acclimation and fitness for work in hot weather is to train in hot weather," the organization wrote.

According to the foundation, trainers can slowly work their dogs in warmer environments for longer periods of time.

"Don’t wait until your dog looks 'too hot to cool him down," the foundation wrote. "Air conditioning, free access to water, sponging him with cool water down to his skin can all help keep him cool throughout the day and get him ready for his next bout of work."

Saleen Martin is a reporter on USA TODAY's NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757. Follow her on Twitter at@SaleenMartin or email her atsdmartin@usatoday.com.

Florida community mourns K-9 officer Archer: 'You got one last bad guy off the street' (2024)

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