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A dog walker has been jailed after leaving two dogs to die during a heatwave, just days after the Met Office issued its first extreme heat weather warning last summer.
Southampton Magistrates' Court heart how Christine Carpenter, 55, had been paid to walk two spaniels – a Cavalier King Charles named Poppy and a cross called Pixie – when she left them in the heat of a car on one of 2021’s hottest days of the year.
She had taken the pets for a walk before bringing them home to her own garden, before putting them in the car so she could take them back to their owners, cracking the windows open.
However, she ended up leaving them in the extreme heat as she carried out a number of tasks inside her house, with the court being told that the dogs were dead ‘within minutes’ as temperatures reached 29ºC outside.
An examination by a vet revealed the two animals had internal temperatures of at least 43°C – compared to the usual level of 38°C – even 25 minutes after arriving, although the true reading may have been higher as this was the maximum temperature the thermometer could record.
According to Sarah Wheadon, prosecuting, the dogs were also ‘noticeably warm to the touch’, with a veterinary expert saying the dogs died of ‘heat stress, having been exposed to an environment of high temperature’ after reviewing the cases.
Owners Roy Narbey and wife Kate were ‘devastated’ by deaths of their dogs after leaving them with Carpenter, who ran a commercial dog walking business called Chris’ Absolute Pets. They had hired her to walk Poppy and Pixie in January 2020, and were charged £15 for two hours of her service.
On that day, however, Wheadon said Mrs Narbey told Carpenter to just take the dogs out for a ‘half hour quick walk’ because it was so hot. She also offered Carpenter a drink, but she declined as she was ‘worried about leaving the dogs in the car’.
Carpenter picked the dogs up at around 12.30pm and drove them – along with her own rescue dog – to the nearby Kingston Great Common nature reserve in Ringwood, Hampshire, where there is a stream they could swim in.
Mrs Narbey became ‘concerned’ when her dogs had not been returned by 5.30pm, and tried calling Carpenter. When she finished with an appointment at 6.15pm, she called Carpenter again and heard her speaking with a ‘shaky’ voice.
Wheadon said: "She said 'I'm panicking because I can't wake the girls up'.
"At that point Mrs Narbey screamed at her and said you need to get to the vets."
In a victim impact statement read out in court, Mrs Narbey said: "Since the sudden loss of our dogs, I have changed. I have become withdrawn and lack confidence. Before this happened I loved my home – now there are memories everywhere and I miss them all the time.
"I used to love where we live in the New Forest and taking our girls out for walks. I felt so blessed. Sadly, I don't feel like that now."
Michael Stocken, defending, said Carpenter ‘immediately ceased her business’, adding that she was ‘traumatised herself as a result of her negligible conduct’.
District Judge Anthony Callaway sentenced Carpenter to 18 weeks imprisonment and disqualified her from owning any animal for eight years.
He said: “This was an incredibly hot day and any professional should have known that having these dogs anywhere near a car, even with the windows open, was a bad idea.
“People expect their dogs to be cared for, that clearly didn't happen here... This was a gross breach of trust.”
Speaking after the sentencing, RSPCA Inspector Jo Story said: “This is a tragic case in which two dogs sadly lost their lives. Our thoughts are with Poppy and Pixie’s owners. Many people think something like this will never happen to them so we hope this saddening case reminds people that the risk to the lives of animals is so high.
“We’d plead with people to never leave a dog in a vehicle even for a moment, especially during hot weather.”
Speaking after the court case, Mr Narbey added: "We were bereft and devastated about what happened. We had to get another dog straight away because they were like family to us.
"She [Carpenter] was a friend of ours. She lived 200 yards around the corner. We wanted her to be banned from keeping or caring for animals but we were shocked when we found out she had been sent to prison. She has a child."