Hot car death of Richmond SPCA director’s dog may have helped to lower summer 2009 hot car death toll

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2009:


RICHMOND, Va.–The Richmond Animal Care & Control Division
on August 28, 2009 announced a finding that “no willful intent was
found” in an investigation of the death of Louie, a 16-year-old deaf
and blind cocker spaniel/poodle mix who died of heatstroke on August
19, 2009 after being left in the back of Richmond SPCA director
Robin Starr’s station wagon.
Starr’s husband, Ed Starr, stated that he put Louie into
the vehicle as his wife prepared to return to work after a 10-day
vacation, but forgot to tell her that he had. Robin Starr found
Louie when she started to go to lunch at noon. “Louie died around
midnight after veterinarians were unable to restore the pet’s kidney
functions,” reported Jeremy Slayton of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“Robin Starr, a lawyer and an outspoken advocate, viewed
Louie’s death as a private matter,” wrote Times-Dispatch columnist
Michael Paul Williams, calling for her resignation from the SPCA
post she has held since 1997. “She didn’t disclose the death until a
week later,” Williams continued, “after the Times-Dispatch received
a tip. Even then, the SPCA asked a Times-Dispatch reporter not to
write a story. But it became national news.”
Starr was strongly defended by the Richmond SPCA board and donors.
The Starr case appears to have been the most publicized
animal–or baby–death in a hot car of 2009, and may have helped to
prevent deaths during the last five weeks of summer. Fewer than half
as many children and animals died in hot car cases known to ANIMAL
PEOPLE in the summer of 2009 as in any of the four preceding summers.
Data published in 2002 by the Centers for Disease Control &
Prevention indicates that about 40 small children per year die in
parked car accidents, chiefly in cases involving heat stress.
Reported cases involving animals average about half as many.
About a quarter of the animal toll during the past decade were police
dogs. Most were trapped in police cars with faulty air conditioners,
while their handlers were out of the cars on duty.
Helen Woodward Animal Center publicist John Van Zante, the
longtime national leader in hot car death prevention, did his annual
demonstration of the dangers of leaving animals or children in cars
during summer on July 16, 2009, but a test on July 13 produced a
more dramatic result: the temperature inside a closed HWAC van rose
from 77 degrees Fahrenheit to 110 in seven minutes, and reached 147
in 25 minutes.

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