Police Officers Rescue Dog from Overheated Car, Owner Faces

Police Officers Rescue Dog from Overheated Car, Owner Faces Charges

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A distressing situation unfolded this week when Clearwater police had to break into a hot car to save a dog at Clearwater Beach. The dog’s owner is now facing charges for animal cruelty.

On Tuesday afternoon, around 4:45 p.m., the police were alerted to an animal suffering in the Pier 60 parking area. They discovered the dog in the backseat of a car that was parked directly under the sun. The small gap of 2–3 inches left in the windows was not enough to cool the inside of the car, which was very hot because the temperature outside was nearing 90 degrees.

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The dog was clearly in trouble, breathing hard and showing signs of extreme heat exposure. Officers saw that the dog seemed very tired and was sweating a lot. Body camera footage showed an officer breaking one of the car’s windows to reach in, unlock the door, and help the dog out.

Once the dog was safe, the officers gave it some cool water from a bottle they had in their car. They found a bit of water in the dog’s car, but it was warm and not nearly enough. The owner of the dog, Marie Rutherford, 40, from Nashville, Tennessee, later told the police that she had left the dog in the car while she visited the beach. 

She thought the dog would be okay because she left some water for it. The police learned that although the dog had been in the car for about 30 to 40 minutes, Rutherford had paid for parking for more than two hours. The dog received immediate medical attention at a nearby vet and was then taken to an animal control center. Sherry Silk, the CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, warned about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars:

“Do not take your dogs anywhere, because you may be running into a store thinking you’re only going to be there for five minutes, but it doesn’t take long for that car to really heat up,” Silk explained. “And if you get caught up in something, and you’re there an extra ten minutes, animals die. Dogs start convulsing. They suffer from heat stroke. That does brain damage and ultimately death.”

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She also mentioned that leaving water in a hot car is ineffective in cooling down pets when temperatures soar. This incident is part of a troubling trend seen by the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where numerous animals have been treated for heat-related illnesses this season. Silk emphasized that pet owners should not take their dogs with them if they cannot keep them safely out of the car.

The timely intervention by the Clearwater police likely saved the dog’s life, but this event serves as a serious reminder of the risks pets face when left in cars under hot conditions. Continuous efforts from law enforcement and animal welfare groups aim to raise awareness and encourage pet owners to think twice before exposing their animals to such dangerous situations.

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