Christine Carpenter left two spaniels she was paid to walk in the boot of her car, days after the Met Office had issued its first ever extreme heat weather warning last summer.
The animals – a King Charles Cavalier named Poppy and a cross called Pixie – were dead ‘within minutes’, as temperatures reached 29C outside, a court heard.
On later examination by a vet, their internal temperatures were found to be the maximum the thermometer could reach.
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Christine Carpenter left two spaniels she was paid to walk in the boot of her car, days after the Met Office had issued its first ever extreme heat weather warning last summer. The animals – a King Charles Cavalier named Poppy and a cross called Pixie – were dead ‘within minutes’, as temperatures reached 29C outside Picture: Solent News & Photo Agency
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Owners company director Roy Narbey and wife Kate were left ‘devastated’ by their deaths after leaving them in the care of someone they considered a friend.
Mrs Carpenter was then investigated and prosecuted by the RSPCA.
Magistrates heard the 55-year-old mother took a group of dogs, including her own, out during the middle of the afternoon in her hometown of Ringwood, Hants.
Poppy and Pixie Picture: RSPCA/Solent News
It was the third day of the Met Office’s unprecedented extreme heat warning across the south west, as the country was gripped in a blistering heatwave.
The day before the dog walk was the hottest day of 2021, with the mercury hitting 32.2C at London’s Heathrow airport.
Sarah Wheadon, prosecuting, told the Southampton court: ‘An 11-year old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, the Narbey family owned Poppy since she was eight weeks old. They also had a five year old spaniel cross called Pixie who they had had since she was 12 weeks old.
‘Ms Carpenter ran a commercial dog walking business called Chris’ Absolute Pets and the Narbey family hired her to walk their two dogs initially one day a week in January 2020 but then two days a week by August 2020.
‘She charged £15 for two hours and [Carpenter] always collected the dogs at the Narbey’s home address in her car.
‘July 21 last year was a hot day. In the morning Mrs Narbey texted her to take the dogs out for a short walk and to take them somewhere where there was water for them to cool down in.’
The court heard Carpenter picked the dogs up at about 12.30pm from Roy and Kate Narbey’s modern, semi-detached home in Ringwood.
She had her own rescue dog in her car and drove to the nearby Kingston Great Common nature reserve, where there is a stream they could swim in.
Ms Wheadon said Mrs Narbey told Carpenter to take the dogs for just a ‘half hour quick walk’ because it was so hot.
In fact, she offered Carpenter a drink but she declined as she was ‘worried about leaving the dogs in the car’.
However, the court heard Mrs Narbey became ‘concerned’ when Carpenter still had not returned her dogs by 5.30pm, as she had an appointment to go to.
She tried calling but had no reply so texted the dog walker asking where she was and telling Carpenter to let herself in to feed the dogs when she got back as she had a key.
When Mrs Narbey’s appointment finished at 6.15pm she was ‘getting worried’ as she still had not heard from Carpenter.
The court heard she called again and this time Carpenter picked up the phone and asked ‘were you worried about me?’.
Ms Wheadon said: ‘Things didn’t sound or feel right [to Mrs Narbey]. Her voice was a bit shaky so she asked what’s wrong.
‘She said “I’m panicking because I can’t wake the girls up”.
‘At that point Mrs Narbey screamed at her and said you need to get to the vets.’
But the court heard within minutes of the dogs arriving shortly afterwards at the vets, Carpenter was told the dogs were ‘gone’.
She told the vet ‘I only left them for a minute, I love them like they are my own’.
Ms Weadon said both dogs were ‘noticeably warm to the touch’ and had a temperature of almost 43C – compared to an ordinary level of 38C to 39C – even 25 minutes after they were brought to the vets.
The court heard the true reading was likely even higher, as this was the maximum temperature the thermometer could record.
Carpenter was interviewed by police two days after. She said she the dogs for a walk and they went in the water before getting back into her car and letting them out in her garden.
She said she put Poppy and Pixie in her car with the windows open, then went back inside to get her phone when she felt unwell and had a wash.
She then locked the house and went outside, but went back inside to grab a shopping back as she was planning to go to the supermarket.
Ms Wheadon said: ‘She opened the boot, she said she couldn’t breathe. The dogs were lying down and not moving.
‘She didn’t know how long the dogs were in the car, she said it felt like minutes.
‘She did acknowledge there were exceptional temperatures.
‘She accepted that ultimately her actions had caused the dogs to die.’
The court heard a veterinary expert reviewed the case and said the dogs died of ‘heat stress, having been exposed to an environment of high temperature’.
In a victim impact statement read out in court, Mrs Narbey said: ‘Since the sudden loss of our dogs, I have changed. I have become withdrawn and lack confidence.
‘Before this happened I loved my home… now there are memories everywhere and I miss them all the time.
‘I used to love where we live in the New Forest and taking our girls out for walks.
‘I felt so hurt. Sadly, I don’t feel like that now.’
Mrs Wheadon said the fact Carpenter has a rescue dog and three rescue cats ‘doesn’t change the facts of what happened last year’.
She added: “Whilst she may be remorseful and not intended what happened, she was neglectful.
‘She is understandably upset… but put this in the context of the Narbey family who have lost their two dogs.’
Michael Stocken, defending, said Carpenter immediately ceased her business and was ‘traumatized herself as a result of her negligible conduct’.Carpenter, who trembled and cried in the dock, had previously pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animals and failing in her duty to ensure welfare.
District Judge Anthony Callaway sentenced her to 18 weeks imprisonment and disqualified her from owning any animal for eight years.
He added: ‘This was an incredibly hot day and any professional should have known that having these dogs anywhere near a car, even with the windows open, was a bad idea.
‘People expect their dogs to be cared for, that clearly didn’t happen here… This was a gross breach of trust.
Speaking after the court case, Mr Narbey added: “We were bereft and devastated about what happened. We had to get another dog straight away because they were like family to us.
‘She [Carpenter] was a friend of ours. She lived 200 yards around the corner.
‘We wanted her to be banned from keeping or caring for animals but we were shocked when we found out she had been sent to prison. She has a child.’
Speaking after the sentencing, RSPCA Inspector Jo Story added: “This is a tragic case in which two dogs sadly lost their lives. Our thoughts are with Poppy and Pixie’s owners.
‘Many people think something like this will never happen to them so we hope this saddening case reminds people that the risk to the lives of animals is so high.
‘We’d plead with people to never leave a dog in a vehicle even for a moment, especially during hot weather.’