Jonathan Theobald’s dogs perished after being shut inside a car while their owner went to the gym
The RSPCA has released a hard-hitting video in a bid to reach pet owners across the country and raise awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in cars on warm days. The UK’s largest and oldest animal welfare charity has launched its annual Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign – a campaign backed and endorsed by 11 other charities, organisations and bodies – with a heartbreaking video of a man who was prosecuted by the charity for leaving his three dogs in his car while he went to the gym. All three dogs died. In the video, Jonathan Theobald talks about the devastating impact the split second decision to leave the trio in the car has had on his life and that of his family’s since that fateful day almost a year ago.
“I got it badly wrong, I misjudged the weather very badly.” It was a warm day on 16 June 2016, but it was overcast and wasn’t particularly hot. Mr Theobald, 66, drove to his local gym in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and went inside for his work-out. He left his three Staffordshire bull terrier crosses Daisy, Rascal and Mitch in the car for more than four hours. When he returned to his Volkswagen estate, two of his dogs were already dead of heat exposure and he spent 30 minutes desperately trying to revive Daisy before she finally succumbed to the heat. Other gym users contacted the police and a vet and officers later found a devastated Mr Theobald at his home address with the dogs still inside the car and called in the RSPCA to investigate.
In September last year, Mr Theobald was sentenced at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court to an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years. He was also disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay £1,900 in fines and costs. He’d previously pleaded guilty to one offence of causing unnecessary suffering to Daisy, Rascal and Mitch by confining the animals in an environment which was detrimental to their well-being and led to their death.
New figures reveal that thousands of people are still making the same mistake each year. In 2016, the RSPCA’s emergency hotline received 7,187 calls about animals in hot environments – the majority of which were regarding dogs. While down from the previous year (8,779), the number is still worryingly high considering the charity’s key advice is for people to call 999.
RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs, who investigated Daisy, Rascal and Mitch’s deaths, said: “It’s staggering to think that more than 7,000 people called us last year due to concerns about animals in the heat and most of these will have been dogs left in cars. “Our message has been loud and clear for years: don’t leave dogs alone in parked cars on warm days. And while it’s reassuring that this message seems to be getting through to some people, ultimately we’d like this number to drop to zero.
“What’s also concerning is that the number of incidents of dogs in hot cars is probably much higher as our key advice is to dial 999 if you spot a distressed animal in a vehicle so goodness knows how many calls were made to police on the same issue.
“Unfortunately, many people seem to be under the impression that it’s okay to leave their dogs in the car for a number of hours while they work out, go shopping or attend an appointment. “I really hope that people will use this tragic tale as a reminder of the real danger you could be putting your dog in if you leave him in a car on a warm day. Nobody believes it will happen to them – Jonathan didn’t think it would happen to him…”
Mr Theobald, who volunteered to film the video in the hopes of raising awareness of the dangers of leaving dogs in cars, added: “What message would I give to other dog owners? Be incredibly careful. The weather can change quickly and a car can become lethal, I’ve discovered that the hard way. If in doubt, leave your dogs at home.”
● For more information on what to do if you see a dog in a hot car, please visit the RSPCA website www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/health/dogsinhotcars
In an emergency, the RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and our officers have no power of entry so we urge the public to call police on 999.