K-9s’ Deaths in Box Truck Prompt Push From PETA for Criminal Third-Party Investigation

For Immediate Release:
August 3, 2023

Brittney Williams 202-483-7382

Lake Station, Ind.

On Wednesday, PETA rushed a letter to Lake Station, Indiana, Mayor Bill Carroll and the city’s council members, requesting urgent action after nearly 20 dogs reportedly headed to a K-9 training facility in Michigan City, Indiana, suffered from heat exhaustion inside an unventilated box truck—which was not designed to hold or transport animals—on July 27, leading to the agonizing deaths of at least eight of them.

The dogs were apparently left to bake in 91-degree heat—a temperature at which the inside of a vehicle can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes—while the driver sat in traffic for hours. According to reports, when he finally pulled over, he discovered that several dogs were dead—and although representatives of the Humane Society of Hobart (the city’s contracted animal control agency) were on the scene almost immediately, the Lake Station Police Department blocked them from assisting the distressed dogs, forcing rescuers who had access to multiple air-conditioned vehicles to stand by as more dogs died. PETA has discovered that Lake Station Police Chief James Richardson apparently has a long-standing relationship with the owner and operator of the company that was transporting the dogs, Mike McHenry of FM K9.

In light of this evident conflict of interest, PETA is asking city officials to order the Lake Station Police Department to recuse itself from the case; allow the Humane Society to take custody of the dogs, many of whom may still be hospitalize; and engage the Indiana State Police for a nonbiased, third-party investigation of the incident.

On Wednesday, a PETA representative who went to the Lake Station Police Department was refused access to police records about the case by order of Richardson.

“Desperate dogs slowly baked inside a death-trap box truck, and authorities were apparently more concerned about damaging a personal relationship than about getting them lifesaving care,” says PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for the Lake Station Police Department, which failed dogs who relied on it for help, to step aside and submit to an external investigation into this incident.”

Additional information about heatstroke in dogs is available here. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Mayor Carroll and the City Council follows.

August 2, 2023

The Honorable Bill Carroll, Mayor of Lake Station

Members of the Lake Station City Council

Dear Mayor Carroll and Honorable Council Members:

PETA’s offices have been inundated with calls from residents of Lake Station and beyond who are deeply upset by the preventable suffering and deaths by heat exhaustion of at least eight dogs confined to plastic crates inside an unventilated cargo box truck. We understand that under normal circumstances, the Humane Society of Hobart would have taken charge of the scene to ensure appropriate triage, emergency aid, and a professionally conducted criminal investigation. However, we were told that the Lake Station Police Department interfered with the Humane Society’s efforts, apparently because of an existing relationship between the owner of the dogs and Chief of Police James Richardson.

As you may already know, Richardson previously worked at the New Chicago Police Department with Michael McHenry, owner and operator of the company transporting the dogs, FM K9. McHenry was on the scene last Thursday and evidently behaved in a hostile manner toward representatives of the Humane Society who were there to render emergency help to the suffering and dying dogs. McHenry’s company provides dogs and training for law-enforcement agencies across the region. (This is an entirely unregulated industry, so the fact that this is McHenry’s livelihood alone does not speak to his qualifications.) According to reports, the Lake Station Police Department blocked efforts by the Humane Society to assist, including by insisting that the affected dogs wait for human ambulances, instead of allowing the Humane Society to transport them for care immediately, likely prolonging their suffering.

Based on this significant conflict of interest, on behalf of our nearly 104,000 members and supporters in Indiana, we request that you compel the Lake Station Police Department to recuse itself from the case without delay and allow the Humane Society of Hobart, the city’s contracted animal control agency, to retain protective custody of all animals involved in the incident and engage a third party, such as the Indiana State Police, to conduct a thorough and nonbiased investigation.

According to media reports, on July 27 a person transporting nearly 20 dogs in the cargo compartment of a box truck pulled into the Road Ranger gas station on Ripley Street. The high temperature that day was at least 91 degrees. Without air conditioning, the interior temperature of a vehicle would have risen to 110 degrees within 10 minutes. Allegedly, a cooling unit of some kind was installed in the cargo compartment of the truck—which was neither designed nor suitable to transport live animals—but it wasn’t functional. Dogs rely on panting to shed body heat, and once their internal temperature hits 105, they will die from multisystem organ failure. At least eight of the dogs died that day, but no definitive final count has yet been reported.

The owner of the dogs reportedly sold one of them for $7,500 to a bystander on the scene. Per the company’s website, that is the price for a “green” (untrained) German shepherd or Belgian Malinois, the breeds of the victims in this incident. In photos from the scene, the dogs appear thin or underweight, with prominent ribs and hipbones easily visible despite their thick double coats.

Police allowed the driver to leave the scene with both live and deceased dogs improperly secured in the truck with the cargo compartment wide open, in blatant violation of local code (Lake Station, Indiana, Municipal Code § 6-17). The Humane Society took custody of several dogs to require that their owner comply with all applicable laws and regulations before they were released from veterinary treatment, but the seizure notice was apparently nullified by the Lake Station Police Department. A PETA representative visited the police department earlier today and was denied access to public records about the incident per the chief’s instructions.

In the interest of transparency, public safety, and animal welfare, please ensure that an unaffiliated third-party agency, preferably the Indiana State Police, takes over investigation of the case immediately.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Daphna Nachminovitch

Senior Vice President

Cruelty Investigations Department

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