Animal advocates lead in preventing hot car deaths
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2002:
ATLANTA–The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported on July 3, 2002 that at least 78 children died in accidents
associated with parked cars during 2000 and 2001, more than a third
of whom died from heat trauma.
The CDCP data indicates that animal advocates are doing a
much more effective job of communicating the risk of leaving pets
alone in cars than child protection agencies are accomplishing in
The dangers to either animals or small children are the same:
heat trauma is the most common cause of death or injury, followed by
accidents when a child or animal accidentally puts the car in gear,
accidents in which the child or animal escapes from the vehicle, and
cases of kidnapping or pet theft.
However, the number of reported deaths of children is more
than twice the number of deaths of individual pets, even though
there are more than six times as many owned pet dogs and cats in the
U.S. as children under age five, and more than 2.5 times as many
dogs, the pets most often taken in vehicles.
The CDCP report was issued four days after Tarajee Maynor,
25, of Southfield, Michigan, was charged with murder for leaving
10-month-old Acacia Darcell Maynor and three-year-old Adonnis
Dominique Maynor unattended in her car for three hours while visiting
a hair styling salon.
“I’m going for Murder #1,” said Southfield police chief
Joseph E. Thomas.
At least two 2001 murder convictions resulted from similar
cases. Christine Hayes, 34, of Lafayette, New Jersey, drew seven
years for reckless manslaughter after leaving her 13-month-old son
Jack in her car to die from severe sunburns and heat exhaustion while
smoking marijuana and drinking beer in a nearby house. Paul Wayment,
37, of Weber County, Utah, drew 30 days in jail for negligent
homicide after leaving his two-year-old son alone in a pickup truck
while deer hunting. Reversing the usual outcome, the boy escaped
from the truck and froze to death while trying to find Wayment in
deep snow. Instead of reporting to jail, Wayment returned to the
scene and shot himself.
Humane Society of the U.S. director of sheltering issues
Diane Pullen told Associated Press reporter David B. Caruso in June
2002 that “hundreds” of dogs die in hot vehicles each summer, but
cruelty case reports collected by ANIMAL PEOPLE since 1992 indicate
that the number of documented cases per year involving individual
petkeepers is at most in the dozens.
Most of the documented deaths involve large numbers of
animals in transit by truck or aircraft from breeders to pet
stores–like the April 24 deaths of four puppies among a group of 38
found in a van in a parking lot at a beachside motel in Daytona
Beach, Florida. Drivers Jeffrey Wayne Hoover, 29, and David
Benjamin McCord, 27, on June 17 pleaded innocent to first degree
misdemeanor cruelty charges.
In a parallel case involving other species, U.S. Airways on
June 25 settled USDA charges pertaining to the deaths of 46 ferrets
at an Evansville cargo handling facility during December 2001 by
paying a fine of $50,000. The ferrets died after spending eight days
lost in transit. The USDA investigation discovered more than 1,700
other alleged recent U.S. Airways violations of federal animal
transportation rules, often resulting in the deaths of small mammals
from heat stress.
In another commercial transport case, wallaby breeder
Melinda Morgan of Marion County, Florida, on July 1 sued the Lowry
Park Zoo in Tampa for allegedly causing the deaths of three wallabies
she loaned to the zoo in February 2002 by allowing the back of the
unventilated rented truck used to pick them up to become overheated.
Six kangaroos survived the two-hour trip.
Iowa rap sheet
The recent “hot spot” for individual neglect cases seems to
be Iowa. Darren Hertzer, 24, was charged on June 29 for leaving
his brother’s beagle named Wilson in a plastic carrier inside a hot
car without water, as punishment for urinating in Hertzer’s
apartment. Wilson died. Johnson County attorney J. Patrick White
said he had received more than 300 e-mails urging that Hertzer be
given the maximum possible sentence.
In Nevada. Iowa, meanwhile, the Story County Sheriff’s
Department charged Iowa State University zoology professor Joseph
Viles, of Ames, with neglect of two Malamutes he allegedly left
chained together in his car while inside the Story County Courthouse
to answer an earlier neglect charge. Assistant city attorney Judy
Parks said Viles had been charged with breaking animal care
ordinances at least 16 times since 1995.
For decades, animal advocacy groups warned petkeepers each
summer about the dangers of leaving pets alone in hot cars–but
cruelty prosecutions of people who did it were almost unheard of.
That changed in 1991 when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
prosecuted Cynthia Boot Binewicz for leaving a Lhasa apso named
Maxine locked in her Mercedes-Benz in a West Hollywood parking lot on
a 100-degree Fahrenheit day. Sheriff’s deputy Kristin Aggas broke a
window to rescue Maxine. Boot-Binewicz tearfully pleaded no contest.
As Aggas, Boot-Binewicz, and Maxine all proved photogenic, the
story drew national attention.
By April 1999, enough people were aware that confinement in
a hot car could kill a dog that more than a dozen strangers gathered
around the vehicle of one Alfred Yaghoubi, 31, in Oxnard,
California, and demanded that police arrest him for leaving a puppy
in the trunk. Yaghoubi was arrested, and the police towed the car
In June 1999 the risks to dogs in hot cars drew further
notoriety when former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne M.
Kirkpatrick was fined $45 for leaving her poodle Jasper in her car
with windows tight shut on a 90-degree day in Bethesda, Maryland.
Just a week earlier, then-Republican candidate for the U.S.
Presidency Elizabeth Dole, a longtime animal welfare advocate, had
named Kirkpatrick as her chief foreign policy advisor.
The mythical “Famous Persons Act” did not spare the Lady
Bute, Diane Percy, 33, of Edinburgh, Scotland, either. Percy
was fined $1,500 in February 1999, and was prohibited from keeping
pets for five years, after her mother’s Rottweiler and Finn spitz
died in her car from heat exhaustion even though Percy had left a
window three inches open.
“It was a just sentence,” Percy said.
Prosecutions are still relatively rare: ANIMAL PEOPLE
received documentation of just eight U.S. cases in 1999, 15 in 2000,
nine in 2001, and five in the first half of 2002. Prevention,
however, is getting attention going beyond just warnings. Terry
Radigan, manager of safety communications for General Motors,
announced in April 2001 that GM expects to begin offering an alarm
linked to a heat sensor as an option on 2004-model mini-vans which
would go off if a sleeping child or animal remained in a vehicle
after the interior temperature exceeded a dangerous level.
“GM also is testing a device to sense the breathing of a
child or animal trapped inside a car trunk and spring the trunk
lid,” wrote Bob Golfen of the Arizona Republic.
In June, Philadelphia philanthropist Kal Rudman paid for
installing the Rescue Coolguard alert system in all 12 Philadelphia
police cruisers used by K-9 units, at cost of just under $400 per
car, after a five-year-old German shepherd named Woodrow baked to
death in the cruiser used by Joseph Arrison, 49. Arrison, a
28-year police officer and 15-year member of the K-9 unit, forgot to
remove Woodrow at the end of their May 24 shift.
“The Rescue CoolGuard alert system, manufactured by American
Aluminum Accessories of Perry, Florida, uses sensors to monitor
temperature inside the cruiser,” explained David B. Caruso of
Associated Press. “The system is tripped when the interior hits 88
degrees. Once tripped, the system rolls down the cruiser’s
windows, activates a cooling fan, and sounds a horn or siren.
Similar systems have been available since the late 1970s,” Caruso
wrote, “though sales have accelerated in recent years. Janet
Worsham, president of Criminalistics Inc. of Miami, said her
company has sold 3,000 to 4,000 heat monitors to police departments
in the U.S. and Canada,” at $305-plus apiece.
Five of the 29 most recent dog-in-hot-car death cases known
to ANIMAL PEOPLE have involved dogs in police custody. The other
* Dar, a three-and-a-half-year-old Czechoslovakian shepherd
trained for drug-sniffing, who died on June 7, 2002, from heat
stroke in a portable kennel in the vehicle of former Scott City,
Kansas, police officer Doug Haire, even though Haire left him with
water and left the car windows down. Haire subsequently resigned
from the Scott City Police Department.
* Two English bulldogs, who died from heat exhaustion in
Greene County, Illinois, in July 2001, as the U.S. Secret Service,
Green County Sheriff’s Department, and Springfield city police
arrested owner Edward Clyde Allen Sr. and his son, Edward Clyde
Allen Jr., for alleged counterfeiting. The three agencies searched
the Allen premises, seized $440,000 in purported bogus bills, and
kept would-be rescuer Patty Hon, a neighbor, from approaching. The
investigating officers believed the dogs were dangerous. Three hours
elapsed before they resolved who had jurisdiction to seize them.
* Lady, a drug-sniffing beagle handled by an undercover
detective assigned to the Metro Narcotics Task Force in Salt Lake
City, Utah, who died when left in a car during July 2000. The
detective was charged with negligent cruelty. Details of the
disposition of the case were withheld to protect his identity.