Even the dogs aren’t safe on Rikers Island as 2nd dies in three years

October 30, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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In another sign at just how bad things are on Rikers Island, a dog from the New York City Department of Correction K9 unit was found dead Tuesday inside a department vehicle this week.

This marks the second death of a K9 unit dog in just over three years. Ryder, the deceased dog, was discovered unresponsive at 2:20 p.m. in a car at the Canine Compound on Rikers Island, according to an official “Death of Staff-Canine” incident report.

Ryder was taken to the Animal Medical Center Hospital at 3:15 p.m. and pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m., according to the same report. The cause of Ryder’s death is still under investigation, said DOC spokesperson Annais Morales. No disciplinary action against the dog’s handler is planned at this time. Morales said that no dogs would be left inside unattended department vehicles until the review of this incident is complete.

The DOC is also investigating whether a heat-activated safety system in the vehicle, designed to automatically lower windows and activate warning indicators when temperatures reach dangerous levels, was functioning correctly at the time of Ryder’s death.

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The death of Ryder comes nearly three years after another dog from the same department, Bingo, died from ingesting industrial soap. The soap had been carelessly left on the ground rather than stored properly on a shelf. Bingo had to be euthanized a week after showing severe symptoms.

In the larger context, this incident adds to the string of crises affecting Rikers Island. Since the start of Mayor Eric Adams’ term in January 2022, 28 DOC detainees have died, recording the highest detainee death rate in the city’s jail system in 25 years. This comes at a time when a federal judge has agreed to hear arguments on whether a federal receiver should assume control over New York City’s troubled jails, including Rikers Island.

The canine unit is an integral part of Rikers Island security, employing more than 40 dogs that search for drugs and electronics. This latest canine death not only raises concerns about animal welfare but also points to broader systemic issues that continue to plague Rikers Island.

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