A man has been spared jail after leaving three dogs to slowly cook to death inside a car for five hours in unbearable 40c heat.
Jonathan Theobald left the three staff-type dogs Daisy, Mitch and Rascal inside his vehicle with no water or ventilation while he went to the gym.
The 65-year-old appeared at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court today (Weds) after pleading guilty to 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.
He was handed an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years and was banned from owning animals for ten years with no chance of appeal for five years.
At the previous hearing on September 14 the court heard the poor animals tried to claw out of the car before suffering seizures and dying of heat exposure.
Describing the horrific circumstances of their deaths prosecutor William Powell yesterday (Weds) said: “The overarching observations of the post-mortem examination carried out found in this case are that this was a gross breach of the duty of care.
“These animals would have suffered immensely.
“They would have gone through stages of panic, heat stress and likely seizures and injury in an attempt to escape before dying.
“All three dogs had suffered unnecessarily for as long as they were left in the car.”
Mr Powell said in the light of current awareness of the issue (leaving dogs in cars) “this case is unforgivable”.
The rescue dogs which ranged in age from 10 to 13 had been left in the the car park of the Vivacity gym in Peterborough, Cambs., on June 16 at 10.29am as the temperature rose to 19 degrees which rocketed to 40c inside the locked vehicle.
The court heard Theobald had attended a gym appointment and stayed inside for five hours before returning to the animals.
When he finally returned to his car, Theobald saw two of the dogs were already dead before trying to save the third using CPR after noticing it was showing signs of life.
Mr Powell said: “He left the dogs without any obvious access to air, water or ventilation.”
He added: “The abiding mystery of this case is why he was in the gym for five hours and why he did not look after the dogs.”
The court heard staff at the gym saw Theobald carrying the dogs around 3pm in an apparent attempt to bury the dogs behind the gym – and they called the police.
By the time they arrived he had left with the dogs and he was found at his home in Peterborough with the animals in his car.
He told officers “I left them in the car too long, it is a fair cop”.
Mr Powell concluded: “Although this is likely to be viewed as a case of inexcusable recklessness it is very unlikely to be a case of pre-planned cruelty.”
Speaking in mitigation Richard Brown told the court that childless Theobald had been a model dog owner.
He urged the magistrates not to disqualify the retired journalist from owning animals in the future, he said: “Mr Theobald is probably one of the kindest and best dog owners, he is a dog lover.
“He and his wife rescued these dogs, they did not buy the most fashionable pooch, they rescued them.”
Mr Brown told the court Theobald had volunteered to work with the RSPCA to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving animals in cars.
He said: “If an experienced dog owner can be caught out then so can anybody else.
“Until that day in June, he was a model dog owner, he misjudged the climate and made a terrible error.”
Theobald, who wore a dark suit, gray shirt and purple tie, shed tears as his solicitor spoke in his defence.
In passing sentence chairman of the magistrates, Timothy Cook, told Theobald “There is no way to escape the fact this is a serious matter, it was as we have heard from the crown that this was reckless rather than being pre-planned cruelty.”
Theobald grimaced when he was told he would be banned from owning pets for a decade.
He was ordered to pay £250 prosecution cost, a victim surcharge of £115, costs for the vet’s post-mortem report of £160 and £365 of a £1,500 fine.
Mr Cook said: “No figure will compensate for the loss of lives of those dogs.”
Theobald refused to speak to reporters as he left court.