The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office is reaching out to the Shorewood Police Department for details and materials regarding the death of an 11-year-old English bulldog named Spike, who died Sunday afternoon in an SUV parked outside a Staples office supply store in Shorewood.
A 9-year-old English bulldog named Ruby survived the incident despite her temperature reaching 106.7 degrees.
State’s attorney spokesman Charles B. Pelkie said the office takes these cases seriously.
“We feel very strongly that people have to follow the law and be responsible animal owners, and they need to protect those animals under state law,” Pelkie said. “We’re asking for whatever material might be available so that we can review the case.”
A state statute, known as the Humane Care for Animals Act, provides animal cruelty guidelines for animal control officers, law enforcement officers and department investigators. Section 7.1 specifically addresses animals confined in vehicles.
The statute states that “no owner or person shall confine any animal in a motor vehicle in such a manner that places it in a life- or health-threatening situation by exposure to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold.”
A violation of that section is a misdemeanor offense.
Shorewood’s village code lacks ordinances related to animal welfare issues.
When Shorewood police closed the case and deemed it an accidental death, Deputy Chief Eric Allen said his officers found no intent or neglect by the 64-year-old woman who owns Spike and Ruby. He reported the vehicle’s air conditioner turned off due to “unknown malfunction.”
But Morgan Mason, founder of Safe Pets for Joliet, said she is disappointed charges weren’t filed and hopes the state’s attorney’s office takes the case.
“I feel bad for the woman that her dog died, but it was caused by her negligence,” Mason said. “People need to be held accountable.”
As for Allen’s statement that the owner’s air conditioning turned off due to a malfunction, Mason said, she remains skeptical.
“I don’t entirely buy the story,” Mason said. “I’m curious as to whether her air conditioning turned on after she started the car to leave the parking lot.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a statement Tuesday about Sunday’s incident.
“Following reports that a dog died in a hot car in Shorewood on Sunday, PETA is issuing an urgent warning about the importance of never leaving animals in hot vehicles,” according to the statement.
PETA’s statement said there have been 42 reported animal deaths related to hot temperatures this year.
“A dog trapped inside (a hot vehicle) can succumb to heatstroke in mere minutes, even if the vehicle is parked in the shade with the windows slightly open,” according to the statement.
PETA encouraged calling the authorities if a dog is seen alone in a hot vehicle, and if authorities are unresponsive or slow, find witnesses and remove the animal from the vehicle.
Mason said people simply should leave their dogs at home, especially if the temperature is more than 75 degrees.
“It’s just not worth the risk, not even with the air conditioning on, not even checking periodically,” Mason said. “You don’t know what could go wrong with your car.”