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Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 06:09 AM

Secret Service dog plunges to its death in New Orleans

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Los Angeles Times

NEW ORLEANS — A Secret Service dog fell to its death in New Orleans this past weekend while performing a security sweep of a six-story parking garage next to the Ritz-Carlton where Vice President Joe Biden was speaking.

The dog, a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, was working in the Premier Parking garage on Iberville Street near the French Quarter hotel when it fell off the roof Saturday night, New Orleans police told local reporters, including WWL-TV.

It was a busy weekend in New Orleans, as the city prepared to host next weekend’s Super Bowl and saw several Mardi Gras parades, including the Krewe of Barkus parade Sunday that drew plenty of dog owners and their pets to the French Quarter.

Biden was attending a fundraiser in the area Saturday for Democratic Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s re-election campaign.

Federal agents rushed the black and brown shepherd to Metairie Small Animal Hospital, but veterinarians were unable to revive it, according to WWL.

New Orleans police could not immediately supply a copy of the police report detailing the incident Monday, and declined to comment.

Secret Service spokesman Max Milien told the Los Angeles Times that the death was a “tragic accident.”

He confirmed that a dog died during a sweep of a parking garage adjacent to a building where a Secret Service “protectee” was Saturday night, but said the agency was not releasing any additional information. It was not clear how old the dog was or how long it was used by the Secret Service.

Milien declined to comment about whether this was the first accident the agency had experienced of this kind.

The Secret Service began its canine program in 1975 to detect explosives, according to its Web page, and they use Belgian Malinois because the breed is small, has short hair, works well in the heat, is fast and sociable.

Each dog and its handler has to complete 20 weeks of training before beginning work, the agency said.

After graduating from basic training, each canine retrains eight hours every week for the rest of its career.

“They become members of the family,” the website said.

When a dog’s career ends — usually after about 10 years — it is retired to its handler. Milien called the dog’s death Saturday “quite a loss.”


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