A $3,000 reward is now being offered after someone stole an SUV parked near Big Easy Casino in Hallandale Beach, Florida and later abandoned the Ford Escape, leaving a small dog inside to die, news reports said. Animal welfare groups Tuesday warned of the dangers of leaving an animal in a parked vehicle.
The SUV was discarded about a mile from the casino by the thief. The windows were shut and the engine was off.
The high temperatures outside that day were well into the 80s. The dog’s name was “Bootsie,” according to WPLG-TV.
The dog’s owner apparently left the animal in the SUV with the engine running during the night of Feb. 19, news reports said. The suspect broke into the vehicle and drove away.
The SUV was spotted the day following the theft. It was parked at the Italian American Civil League.
Yvonne Rella, who is a league member, was the initial person to notice the SUV.
I normally park in that spot and then I see this black car that looked like mine,” Rella told WPLG. “When I look in it, I saw this dog.”
By then, the dog appeared unresponsive. “I was so sad, with the poor dog,” Rella recalled to the TV station.
The suspect was described as a black or Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s. He had long dreadlocks.
If apprehended, he will be charged with animal cruelty and auto theft, news reports said. Anyone with information can contact Florida’s Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.
Typically, US casinos do not allow dogs, except service dogs, on casino gaming floors or in restaurants connected with the property. Even with service dogs, their owners should keep them under control while at the property.
Do Not Leave Animals in Parked Cars
Animal advocacy organizations said Tuesday that motorists should not leave animals in vehicles unattended, especially in warm temperatures.
PETA Senior Director of Cruelty Casework Stephanie Bell told Casino.org, “It’s better to be safe than sorry, and never leave a dog in a parked car. A brief delay or distraction is all it takes for a ‘quick errand’ to turn dangerous and deadly.”
There are no centralized public databases for records of dogs who died in cars, and many deaths likely go unreported. But according to PETA’s records, 113 dogs and other animal companions reportedly died from heat-related causes in 2018 and 2019.
The Humane Society of the United States cautioned that leaving animals in locked cars “is never safe. But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly.
High temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and even death,” the Humane Society said.
The organization recommends passersby who notice an animal left in a vehicle to write down the car’s make, model, and license plate number. Employees at nearby businesses can be contacted to find the vehicle’s driver.
If no one can be found, local officials, such as police officers or animal wardens, should be contacted immediately if the animal shows signs of heat stress.
The symptoms of heat stress include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering, vomiting, and a deep red or purple tongue, the Humane Society said.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) also warned to “never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. Not only can it lead to fatal heat stroke, it is illegal in several states.”
Children Get Left in Cars, Too
There are concerns, too, about adults leaving children unattended, sometimes in cars, while the parent or other person goes to gamble at a casino.
Last weekend, a three-year-old autistic boy was left in a locked, unheated car for a half-hour while his father went into Lincoln, Rhode Island’s Twin River gaming venue to place sports bets, state police said. The temperature was in the mid-30s on the windy winter’s day.
The father, later identified by state police as Mitchell Cuevas, 38, of Providence, was arrested for cruelty to or neglect of a child and obstructing an officer in execution of duty.