‘Archer gave his all’: K-9 dies after tracking suspect in Florida heat

(NEXSTAR) – A K-9 named Archer died Friday after helping apprehend a suspect who led police on a foot chase on a hot, humid day in north central Florida last week.

On Tuesday, officials with the Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) confirmed to Nexstar that Archer died of heat stroke despite efforts by the UF Small Animal Hospital in Gainesville to save his life.

Archer was a 6-year-old German shepherd that started working for the sheriff's office in 2018, according to the MCSO. Born in the Czech Republic, K-9 Archer was trained in substance/drug detection, criminal apprehension and tracking.

K-9 Archer is shown in a photo from the Madison County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff David Harper, who had been posting written and video updates on social media, announced Archer's death on Friday.

"It is with a heavy broken heart that I inform our community that K9 Archer has passed away at UF Small Animal Hospital In Gainesville," Harper wrote. "K9 Archer was surrounded by his handler, fellow members of our canine unit and medical staff. K9 Archer honorably fulfilled his duty by protecting our citizens, our communities, and our deputies without fear or hesitation."

Archer's final pursuit happened July 4 on a humid day when temperatures reached the mid 90s. Sheriff Harper said Archer was "instrumental" in tracking down a driver who ran from a traffic stop into a wooded area.

Hatch recall: Parents urged to ‘immediately stop using’ baby sound machines

"K-9 Archer gave his all to ensure that there was no criminal roaming free in our community," Harper said.

The suspect was arrested and charged with causing great harm/death to police animal/animal cruelty, along with reckless driving, fleeing to elude, no valid driver's license, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of synthetic cannabinoids.

During the chase, however, Archer suffered a "heat episode" and was rushed to a local veterinary clinic before being transferred to UF Small Animal Hospital, where he ultimately died.

News of the K-9's death on the sheriff's Facebook page prompted an outpouring of sympathy, but also critical posts accusing the handler and sheriff's office of not protecting the dog.

Sheriff Harper responded to the negative comments, writing:

The CRIMINAL that caused this entire incident was moving toward one of our citizens residence and was only a couple hundred yards from the home. There were two more residences within 1/8 of a mile. What would have happened had the CRIMINAL made it to one of those residences??? We will never know because multiple dedicated deputies led by one amazing and committed canine named Archer located and arrested the CRIMINAL before he was able to reach the manicured grass in the yard. Yes it is hot. No doubt about that. However heat does not deter CRIMINALS and CRIME ... and it doesn't slow me or my team."

The sheriff's office told Nexstar that they have routine protocols for extreme weather, such as rotating deputies and K-9's as necessary, and that deputies are trained in medical care of themselves and their K-9 partners.

K-9 officer dies after being left in hot car overnight in Misouri

"It was after Archer’s participation in this event that his handler used his training to evaluate Archer and recognize that Archer needed medical attention and immediately transported Archer to the Madison Veterinary Clinic in Madison Florida," the sheriff's office said in a news release.

Officials also noted that "the duties and assignments of a Deputy Sheriff come with certain risks and hazards to protect and serve our community," and that the suspect in this case fled toward several homes "and presented significant importance for the resident’s safety and their property."

MCSO Major Chief of Staff Epp Richardson told Nexstar that Archer was "a great K-9 and a very dedicated, loyal, and valuable member of our Office."

The sheriff's office will release information about memorial arrangements and services for Archer when they are finalized.

Avoiding heat injury or death in dogs

According to the National Police Dog Foundation, heat injury is one of the main causes of sudden death in working dogs, whether from being left in a hot vehicle or through over-exertion.

The foundation warns that dogs can be especially vulnerable to sudden increases in temperature from one day to the next.

"Even if it doesn’t feel warm to you if the average temperature has been 35-45° F and you suddenly have a nice 60° F day, that’s as much as a 35° F increase in temperature and your dog may not be acclimated to handle that," the foundation advises. "We humans can sweat to dissipate heat, but dogs rely mostly on panting to cool down, and unlike sweating, this requires a high degree of cardiovascular fitness and acclimation to hotter environments to be completely effective."

The foundation warns not to wait until a dog is noticeably "too hot," to take the following measures when the animal is in danger of overheating: use air conditioning, provide access to water and sponge the dog with cool water down to the skin.

Signs of overheating among dogs include frantic panting, extreme salivation, bright-red membranes and labored breathing, according to the American Kennel Club.

Contact Us