Visalia, CA – Tulare County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) K9 Rocco died in the line of duty on Oct. 16, after he was struck by a vehicle while chasing a rabbit.
The tragic incident occurred after K9 Rocco’s human partner stopped his patrol vehicle to allow K9 Rocco to get out for a bathroom break, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said in a Facebook post later that night.
But while the one-year-old Belgian Malinois was out of the vehicle, he honed in on a nearby rabbit.
K9 Rocco chased the rabbit as it ran onto the roadway, and was struck by a car “within seconds,” Sheriff Boudreaux explained.
TCSO employee Ashley Ritchie said that K9 Rocco’s handler was “very distraught” in the wake of the fatal collision, KFSN reported.
“These handlers and their K-9 partners, they're family,” Ritchie said. “They spend more time with them… than their actual family, so this is like losing a family member.”
Ritchie noted that K9 Rocco was a sworn member of the department.
“It’s just like losing one of your own deputies,” she told KFSN.
Sheriff Boudreaux echoed Ritchie’s statements in his Facebook post.
“At the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, K9 Deputies are as much a part of our Department as their human counterparts,” the sheriff said. “They are heroes who work tirelessly every day to keep our communities safe. And to lose one, is to lose a very valuable and loved member of the Sheriff’s Office.”
K9 Rocco had just joined the TCSO in May.
“Please join Sheriff Boudreaux in honoring ‘Rocco’s’ legacy and keeping his handler and his family in your prayers,” the agency’s post read. “He will be deeply missed.”
K9 Rocco’s American flag-draped body was transported to the veterinarian’s office by a procession of first responders, KFSN reported.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office in the loss of K9 Rocco.