Man found guilty in death of dog left in hot car at Acadia last summer

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KENTVILLE - A 37-year-old man was found guilty of leaving his dog in a hot car last summer, killing it.

Defence attorney Donald Murray and Jason Remai, with his face covered, leave the courtroom in Kentville after Remai was found guilty of a charge laid under the Animal Protection Act of Nova Scotia.

Jason Remai, 37, stood trial in Kentville provincial court on June 11 on the charge laid under the Animal Protection Act of Nova Scotia.

Kings RCMP responded to two calls about a dog in distress in Wolfville on July 21, 2013. A member of the public found the pet in a Volkswagen in a parking lot on the Acadia University campus. A police investigation was conducted in collaboration with the Nova Scotia SPCA.

A representative of an animal welfare group doesn’t think the sentence will be worth the life of the dog, but Scott Saunders of People for Dogs said he hopes the judge “hands the book” to a Lunenburg man found guilty of failing to provide his dog with reasonable protection from injurious heat.

Saunders said he was surprised Remai fought the charge. He said he hopes the maximum sentence will be handed down.

“I don’t think it will be worth the life of the dog,” Saunders said, adding that he hopes a prohibition on owning animals in the future will be imposed.

Saunders said he doesn’t understand why, as the court heard, Remai put his Portuguese water dog, Jackie, back in the car after having it out during an earlier lunch break. Saunders said Remai was attending a “dog friendly” event at the K.C. Irving Centre.

He said there’s a lesson here for everyone: don’t leave dogs in cars. Saunders said people seem to have a phobia of reporting such instances to police.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to do the right thing,” Saunders said.

Crown Jim Fyfe called eight witnesses, including Elizabeth Brewster, who found the dog in distress in the parked car.

“I started looking around to see if there was anyone else in the area,” she said. “I wanted to find some help.”

She said she had heard the dog yelp and found it in the car. The windows were completely closed and covered with condensation on the inside. All the doors and the hatchback were locked. She described bright sunlight shining on the windows and the dog, who was on the floor behind the front passenger’s seat.

“It looked like it was trying to dig its way under the front seat,” she said, describing the dog being in a contorted position, “kind of upside down.”

The conference organizer, John Cummings, testified that after being unable to reach Remai and because the RCMP and campus security had yet to arrive, he made an “executive decision.”

“I made the decision if this dog didn’t get out of the car pretty darn quick, it was going to die.”

He broke the back driver’s side window with a hammer and a woman entered through the broken window to unlock the car. He said he couldn’t believe how hot the air was coming out of the car. 

Cummings and the woman lifted the dog out and set it in the shade. Concerned bystanders tried giving the dog water to drink and attempted to cool its body with water. However, the dog died.

Const. Justin Kennedy, who responded to the call, described Remai’s emotional reaction to his dog’s death as “numbness.”

“He didn’t say a lot,” Kennedy said. “He kept looking at the dog and gently petting it.”

Meteorologist Bridget Thomas testified that the temperature in Wolfville that day was about 22C or 23C. The humidity was between 45 and 50 per cent.

Veterinarian Dana Power later gave expert testimony that a dog would die if its core temperature exceeded 42C. Fyfe asked her what, hypothetically, could happen to a dog given the set of circumstances in question. Power testified that the dog could die within 20 minutes. Although she didn’t examine the dog and no autopsy was performed, it was her opinion that the dog died as the result of the heat.

Defence attorney Donald Murray, who didn’t call any evidence, said in his closing arguments that it was not known how hot it was in the vehicle and it wasn’t known if there had been an increase in body temperature of the dog to the point of injury. He described it as an “investigative failure” that no examination or autopsy had been performed on the body.

Fyfe pointed out that the court heard from witness Janet Munson that she had brought up the matter of the dog in the car to Remai. She testified Remai’s response was, “I might get him later.”

Judge Claudine MacDonald said that she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Remai, who didn’t testify, was the owner of the car and had charge of the dog. She said the symptoms demonstrated by the dog were consistent with heat stroke.

Although she couldn’t make a finding about the temperature in the car, she was “satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was hot enough in the vehicle to possibly injure the dog. The dog was “showing obvious signs of distress,” she added.

“It was a significant contributing cause of death,” she said about the dog being left in the locked car. “I’ll make that finding without an autopsy.”

MacDonald said “the only reasonable inference” she could draw is that the dog got too hot in the car with the windows closed and died as a result.

Remai will be sentenced in Kentville provincial court on June 25 at 1:30 p.m.

Organizations: Volkswagen, Acadia University, Nova Scotia SPCA K.C. Irving Centre RCMP

Geographic location: Kentville, Wolfville, Acadia Nova Scotia Lunenburg

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