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CASPER, Wyo. — A Mills police officer faces an animal cruelty charge after the death of a police dog that he allegedly left in his hot patrol car for several hours.

Zachary Miller, who has been with the police department for four years, is charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in connection with the death of K9 officer Nyx.

The officer left the dog in his patrol car for almost seven hours while the vehicle was parked outside the police department, according to an investigator's affidavit filed in Natrona County Circuit Court. The car was running, but the air conditioning was off.

According to the affidavit, Miller arrived at the police department at 5:30 a.m. on July 9. Miller left shortly after to respond to a call with another officer. The two returned to the police department with Nyx in the vehicle about 6 a.m. The officers went inside the department and did not return to the car until about 12:50 p.m. The outside temperature had gone from 53 to 86 degrees, according to the affidavit.

Miller pleaded not guilty to the charge during an appearance Friday morning in circuit court.

Mills police chief Bryon Preciado said Miller will remain employed by the police department, but Miller is currently not on active duty.

“It was a mistake he’s going to have to pay for,” Preciado said. “He’s going to be disciplined through our department.”

Preciado said Miller has never faced disciplinary action by the department before this incident.

If convicted, Miller faces a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $750 fine.

“If he violated the law, then he should be held accountable just like anybody else,” Preciado said.

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Nyx was a black Lab who had been with the department for almost seven years. She lived with Miller’s family.

“Everyone was hurt by her loss,” Preciado said.

The department’s K9 program is being suspended while police are reviewing the incident, Preciado said.

“I think there’s a lot of things we can learn from Nyx’s death,” he said.

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