Seven high-priced show dogs, including one of the top Akitas in the country, are dead after being left by their handler for several hours in a hot van in Jefferson County.
Police say Mary Wild, a 24-year-old woman who was caring for the dogs, left them in a cargo van early Monday and went to bed after returning from a dog show in Iowa.
The dogs likely died of heat stroke, a veterinarian said, although autopsies are pending. The purebreds included three golden retrievers, a dalmation, a Siberian Husky, a Malamute and the top-ranked Akita named Jersey.
“I’ve never seen such a horrific act in my lifetime,” said Dr. Laura Ivan, the veterinarian in House Springs whose office Wild brought the dogs to on Monday. Ivan is now caring for the lone surviving dog. “This was not intentional, but a horrible, tragic accident.”
Wild, who is paid to handle the dogs at shows, did not return repeated phone and email messages from the Post-Dispatch requesting comment. She told police that, after returning from her Iowa road trip, she started to transfer the dogs in kennels into the garage of a home on Kroeck Drive in Arnold. But it was so hot, she later told police, that she instead decided to leave them in their portable kennels in the van.
She told police she put six electric fans in the van to keep the dogs cool. She also left a door open to the van and the van’s windows partly open, said Capt. Ralph Brown of the Jefferson County sheriff’s office. The van was apparently parked in the driveway, Brown said.
She left them in the van about 1 a.m. Monday and went inside the home to sleep. She told police that, three hours later, she went outside to check on the dogs. They were fine, she told police. Then, about 6:30 a.m., all eight dogs were in distress. She found five of the dogs breathing, but not responsive. The other three were clearly in distress, but could at least raise their heads.
She tried reviving the dogs, by hosing them down, then took them to a veterinarian in House Springs. Only one of the eight survived.
I’ve traveled enough with dogs to know never to leave them in a van, even with fans, when it’s hot. Indeed, when we stop for the evening, whatever crates, food and equipment the dogs may need are moved into a comfortable and secure place, most often a motel room. The dogs are then exercised before they’re put up. Only then do we attend to our own needs.
It makes no different how late it is or how tired we are or how safe we may think the situation is, there’s no excuse for not looking after the welfare of the dogs first. Negligence, “an error in judgment, a lack of common sense” in this case, led to tragedy.