A 36-year-old Milford, Delaware, woman has been arraigned on animal cruelty charges after allegedly leaving her dog tethered outside during last week’s heat wave.
The Office of Animal Welfare says the dog died after being outside for several hours, without shade or water. Its owner, Kimberly Sterling, is charged with cruelty to animals, failure to vaccinate for rabies, and failure to obtain a dog license.
OAW receives dozens of phone calls reporting animals left in the heat during the summer. Officials are warning pet owners about the dangers of heat exposure.
“If it’s too hot for you, and you’re uncomfortable, it’s too hot for them,” said director Christina Motoyoshi.
OAW responded to the alleged abuse last Thursday. The tethered dog had injuries and appeared to be suffering from heat stroke. Officers cut the tether and rushed the animal to receive medical treatment, but it died on the way.
Officers also discovered a second dog at the home. The animal is being held pending the outcome of the case.
On a typical summer day, OAW gets 20 to 25 calls about animals left outside or in cars, Motoyoshi said.
When there’s a heat wave like the one last week, those numbers more than double, she said.
Only two or three of those cases this year have led to serious injury of an animal or criminal charges of animal cruelty, however. To be charged, a pet owner must intentionally or recklessly harm an animal, and cause pain and suffering.
“It’s very rare someone intentionally sets to harm out a dog in this way,” Motoyoshi said. “It’s usually either just a reckless action or lack of education.”
If an animal isn’t in distress, an OAW officer orders the owner to take corrective actions, educates the owner on the dangers of heat exposure, and issues civil citations when appropriate. OAW uses serious animal abuse cases to demonstrate the risks of leaving pets in the heat.
“It’s really important people not leave their pets outside — particularly if they don’t have proper shade, water and shelter. Bring them inside, and we can’t stress that enough,” Motoyoshi said.
“Do not take your pets in the car with you to do your shopping or visit a friend while leaving them in the car.”