Secret Service dog falls to death at Joe Biden fundraiser in New Orleans while on a security sweep

By: Jonathan Helman, CNN

(CNN) -- A Secret Service dog fell to its death Saturday night while doing a sweep of a multi-story parking deck near a hotel where Vice President Joe Biden was speaking.

The Belgian Malinois fell from the roof of the six-story deck adjacent to The Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans where Biden was speaking at a fundraiser for U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, reported CNN affiliate WWL.

Secret Service spokesman Max Milien told CNN the death was a "tragic accident."

The agency began its canine program in 1975 to detect explosives. It uses Belgian Malinois because they are small and have short hair -- making it easy for them to work in the heat. They are also very sociable.

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

When it's time for a dog to retire -- usually after about 10 years -- it is retired to its handler.

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