BRISTOL, Va. — A 2-year-old basset hound chained outside with no food or water died earlier this week in Bristol, Virginia, due to excessive heat, police said Wednesday.
On Monday, Bristol Virginia Police Officer Mike Gross was dispatched to a business on Sullins Street to investigate a complaint that a dog was chained up at a nearby residence. The officer was directed to the basset hound, which was chained to a pole in the back yard of a home on Lancaster Street.
The officer went to the home, and the owner, who police have not identified and whose name was redacted from the police report, came out of the house.
“We went to where the dog was chained up and the dog was deceased,” Gross wrote in the report.
The report states that the owner unhooked the dog and took it in the house.
“[The owner] stated that she had just took the dog outside about 15 minutes before my arrival,” the officer states in the report.
But the witness, who called police, said she saw the dog chained outside all day. The dog had no water, food or shelter, the report states.
Gross took photographs of the dog and the location and contacted the Bristol Virginia commonwealth’s attorney’s office. He was advised to forward the case to the city’s animal control officer, who is on vacation this week, to pursue charges.
Sgt. Steve Crawford said Wednesday that Virginia code states that if a dog is not provided food, water or proper shelter, and it survives, the owner can be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. If the dog dies as a result, it’s a class 6 felony.
“You have to be able to prove neglect,” Crawford said. “Domesticated animals have to be inside or they have to be chained up. It’s easy for us to see if there is no food or water. In heat like this, water needs to be available all the time.”
The case remains under investigation, Crawford said.
Temperatures this week have hovered around the 90-degree mark, according to the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tennessee.
“We don’t have them often,” Crawford said when asked about similar cases. “People will call us periodically and say there is no shelter or no water. Or officers will find them and usually deal with it on the spot.”
There have been a few cases of animals dying due to extreme heat or cold in recent years in the area and the owners were charged.
Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney General Julie Canter, who pursues cases involving crimes against animals, said she has not had any cases so far this year, but with increasing temperatures, that may change.
She noted that Tennessee law does extend Good Samaritan protections in terms of civil liability to those who in good faith act to aid an animal in imminent danger of harm that has been locked in a car provided they contact authorities prior to making an attempt to forcibly enter a vehicle.
Virginia law is similar.
If anyone sees a dog in a hot car or outside without proper care, they are advised to call police.
The Humane Society says owners should never leave pets in a parked car. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, the temperature in a car with the windows open slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes.
Any time a pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cool water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat — in fact, it makes it worse, the Humane Society says.
Owners are advised to watch their animals for signs of heatstroke, which include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs — like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles — will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
A pet suffering from heatstroke should be moved into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Ice packs or cold towels should be applied to the head, neck, and chest and cool water run over the animal. Let the pet drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes and get to a veterinarian immediately.