Peterborough man fined after allowing three dogs to be ‘cooked alive’ in hot car for five hours

Jonathan Theobald Leaves court after sentancing.Magistrates court, Peterborough. Picture by Terry Harris undefined
Jonathan Theobald Leaves court after sentancing.Magistrates court, Peterborough. Picture by Terry Harris undefined

A Peterborough man has been fined and given a suspended prison sentence after allowing his three dogs to be slowly cooked alive in a hot car for five hours while he trained in the gym.

Jonathan Theobald (65) of Lincoln Road left Staffordshire Bull Terrier-type dogs Daisy, Mitch and Rascal inside his vehicle with no water or ventilation.

When he finally returned to his car, he saw two of the dogs were already dead before trying to save the third using CPR after noticing it was showing signs of life.

This morning, Wednesday September 28, Peterborough Magistrates gave Theobold an 18 week prison sentence suspended for two years and banned from keeping any animals for 10 years.

He was also ordered to pay a £1,500 fine, £250 in costs, and a victim surcharge of £115.

Prosecutor Charlotte Murray said at a previous hearing: “The dogs would have gone through stages of panic, seizures and made attempts to escape before dying of over-heating of the brain.”

Ms Murray told the court a post-mortem examination revealed all three had perished as a result of hyperthermia.

On the day the dogs were locked inside the car, temperatures outside peaked at 19’c in Peterborough.

PC Peacock of Cambridgeshire police attended the car park of Vivacity Premier Fitness in Hampton on June 16 and was immediately aware that the dogs were dead.

They had been inside the car since 10.29am but were not freed until around 3.30pm, the court heard.

Ms Murray added: “He [Theobald] admitted [to PC Peacock] he had left them in the car for too long and it was a fair cop.”

Theobald pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to three dogs by confining them in an environment which was detrimental to their well-being which lead to their death.

Kevin Warboys, defending Theobald, said: “This is a man with exemplary character. Under the harrowing circumstances he responded as well as he could.

“He told officers ‘I’m the one to blame, I made a terrible mistake’.”

RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs, who investigated, said: “When Mr Theobald returned to his car having spent a number of hours at the gym, he found two of his dogs had already succumbed to the heat. He tried to save the third dog’s life - but it was too late.”

A local vet and police were contacted and found Theobald at his home address with the dogs still inside the car. The RSPCA were then called and launched an investigation.

“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,” inspector Stubbs said. “They believe the dog is better in the car than being left at home.

“This very sad story shows that the reality is that a dog left in a car faces a very probable risk of suffering, or possible death. Even on a mild day, temperatures inside a parked car can soar very quickly.

“Records show that on 16 June, the day in question, it was between 16 and 19C during the hours these dogs were left in the car - certainly not what we’d consider heatwave temperatures in England. But it was enough for the temperature inside the vehicle to climb to a level which killed these poor dogs.

“No matter what the excuse, there is never a good enough reason to leave your dog in a car and risk his life. I sincerely hope 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.”

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: “This was a tragic, but completely avoidable incident. We remind the public never to leave dogs in cars during hot weather, even for a short period of time or with the window slightly open. The temperature can rise quickly with devastating consequences.”

The RSPCA and 11 other animal welfare charities and organisations each year runs the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles, caravans, conservatories and outbuildings in warm weather. And it doesn’t even need to be that hot before animals are at risk in confined spaces.

So far this year, the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line has received almost 7,000 calls relating to animals left in hot environments - the majority of which are dogs in cars on hot days.