You may have heard the tragic story about a police officer whose canine companion died inside a sweltering car in Alpine in 100-degree heat. The Union-Tribune reported the other day on a Department of Animal Services investigation that found the dog had been left in the car with the windows rolled up for “possibly as long as seven hours.”

It was really a terrible story.

The U-T quoted Animal Services Director Dawn Danielson, who described it thusly:

“It’s a horrific way to die,” Danielson said. “He’s panting hot air, his insides heat up, he bleeds internally. He’s in a state of panic, trying desperately to get out.”

The officer, Paul Hubka, may face charges for the neglect.

But there’s a brutal irony. The dog’s death occurred on June 20. As first reported in the Reader, Hubka and two other officers had just won a lawsuit against their employer — the city of San Diego — in which they demanded that their eventual retirement from the city include the extra compensation they got from taking care of the dogs.

In other words, when you retire from the city, your pension is calculated based on how high your salary is. Officers who take care of dogs and know how to work with them on the job get paid 3.5 hours of “premium” overtime every week for their trouble.

The city doesn’t count overtime when calculating someone’s pension. But the city somehow included canine overtime in a list of types of compensation to be used in the pension formula and the officers decided to press their case. They wanted the overtime to be calculated in their retirement checks. They made a good argument and they won. The city attorney appealed, spent hundreds of thousands on an outside law firm to fight it, and still lost.

The retirement system didn’t have the exact number handy of how much of a pension boost this will be for the officers involved. Michael Conger, the attorney who handled the case, told me that the case will mean that each officer who took care of a canine partner between the years of 2000 and 2006 will receive about $1,000 or $2,000 dollars a year for the rest of their lives — which adds up.

So the officer will now be paid for the rest of his life for taking care of the dogs he worked with, including the one who roasted in his car last month.


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