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Dog deaths still remain unexplained

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The McCracken County Animal Shelter's internal investigation did not determine why five dogs died of heatstroke when three others in the same conditions survived.

The dogs were found dead at the shelter at 6:45 a.m. on Monday, June 23. A necropsy report from Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville showed the five dogs, which were housed in an outbuilding for quarantined dogs that had been seized by animal control for biting or aggression, had died of heatstroke.

But three other dogs in the shed were not seriously harmed by the heat, which had been at similar temperatures on prior days.

As a result, the McCracken County Sheriff's Department opened an investigation. Its probe is not closed, but the department has submitted its findings to the McCracken County Attorney's Office, which forwarded them to Graves County Attorney John Cunningham to avoid any conflict of interest. Cunningham will review the information before releasing the findings, McCracken County Sheriff Jon Hayden said Wednesday.

Shelter Director Ryan Brown said he investigated all employees who had worked that weekend and found no practices were different than any other weekend. The dogs were last checked Sunday afternoon before they were found the next morning, but Brown said he isn't sure what time they had last been checked.

One possible explanation for what happened that night, Brown said, is that one of the dogs within the outbuilding got out of its cage and excited the other dogs to cause their internal temperatures to rise.

Since the deaths, the shelter has moved the quarantined dogs inside the main shelter building overnight. He said the shelter will try to improve the building with insulation or a roll-up door but noted that extra measures must be taken for aggressive dogs.

"You have to treat it almost like it's a jail because of the dogs that are in there," he said.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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