A Peterborough man whose three dogs cooked to death in his car while he went to the gym for five hours has described his emotional pain at their loss for an RSPCA campaign.
Last September, Jonathan Theobald (66) was given an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years, disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay £1,900 in fines and costs at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court.
He had previously pleaded guilty to one offence of causing unnecessary suffering to his three Staffordshire bull terrier crosses Daisy, Rascal and Mitch.
Now, Mr Theobald has opened up about his experience and the empty feeling he has that with his three pets no longer around to keep him company.
Speaking on video for the RSPCA’s annual Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign, a tearful Mr Theobald said: “I got it badly wrong, I misjudged the weather very badly.
“I’ve been prosecuted, I’ve been banned from keeping dogs, there’s been ferocious publicity, but really that’s just rubbing salt in the wounds.
“I’m not saying I don’t deserve that but the main hurt is losing the dogs in the first place.
“The house feels painfully empty - we don’t have dogs now and that’s my fault. My carelessness killed them.”
The incident happened on June 16, 2016 when Mr Theobald attended Vivacity Premier Fitness in Hampton.
On the day the dogs were locked inside the car, temperatures outside peaked at 19’c in Peterborough.
New figures released ahead of Dogs Die in Hot Cars Awareness Day on Bank Holiday Monday (May 29) 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.
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, visit the RSPCA website: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/health/dogsinhotcars.
In an emergency, the RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and its officers have no power of entry, so the charity is urging the public to call police on 999.