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Petitioners demand repercussions for DOC K-9’s death

nthomas@centredaily.com

More people are joining the call to ask for answers in the death of a prison drug dog.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesay, 136,812 people had signed an online petition at Care2 demanding that someone be fired over the death of Totti, a 2-year-old yellow Lab who worked with the drug interdiction unit at Rockview state prison. The dog was left in a car on a hot July day for two and a half hours before being released, given treatment and taken to a veterinarian, according to the Department of Corrections release.

DOC announced Totti’s death last week, a week after it occurred.

Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel called for an investigation at that time. That is not seen as enough for some protesters.

“In addition to their investigation into how this could have even happened: We demand that the Department of Corrections fire this handler immediately. It is obvious that he cannot be trusted to care for a living animal,” the petition reads.

The state DOC says the issue is being taken very seriously.

“The entire Department of Corrections family is devastated by the loss of K-9 Totti. The agency’s Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence is conducting a full investigation into the incident and we are examining all the options with regard to temperature alert technology to install in our K-9 vehicles,” said spokeswoman Amy Worden in a statement Wednesday.

Worden also noted that Totti’s handler, Chad Holland, “has been placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation.”

This is the second protest action this week. On Monday, protesters gathered outside the Centre County Courthouse to demand “justice for Totti.”

Part of that was a call for District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller to prosecute the case.

“I completely understand the public’s desire to want accountability when a defenseless animal is injured or harmed. I understand the personal reactions by animal lovers in this case since this death was horrible,” said Parks Miller. “We care about animals and their protection. However, feelings and opinions do not make it more or less probable that someone committed a crime.”

Feelings and opinions do not make it more or less probable that someone committed a crime.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller

Parks Miller said last week that she asked the DOC to investigate and was following the case.

“We are required to consider all of the facts in light of the specifically written Pennsylvania law to determine if there is probable cause that a crime was committed. We are doing that now in a very thorough manner. That is how this case will be decided,” she said Wednesday.

Some protesters maintained that the DOC was getting different treatment than ordinary citizens. Parks Miller has been known as a zealous defender of animal rights and safety, prosecuting a number of people for killing or mistreating dogs, cows and even snakes.

“My office also does not care who someone is or where they work when considering a matter,” she said. “If they broke the law, they will be held accountable, period. If we could be influenced by public opinion, or someone’s job status, then no one could trust that the law would be applied fairly in Centre County. We will handle this case like we do all other cases, based upon the law and the facts, and nothing else.”

Rockview increased security at its facilities last week over concerns about protests.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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