On Monday July 25, 2016, 19-year-old Megan Kurtz Campbell was arrested and charged with felony animal cruelty for leaving her dog in a hot car outside of a PetSmart in Falls Church, Virginia.
According to a news release from the Fairfax County Police Department:
Police and fire personnel responded to the PetSmart located at 6100 Arlington Boulevard, around 12:23 p.m. for a report of a dog locked inside of a vehicle. Firefighters arrived and immediately determined that the dog was in distress. They entered the vehicle and attempted to cool the dog down but were unsuccessful. The firefighters then transported the dog, a 5-year-old Puggle, to the veterinarian’s office inside the PetSmart, where the dog was pronounced deceased.
Leaving an animal to suffer and die horribly in a hot car is inexcusable and deserves punishment, but a felony seems excessive. If convicted, Campbell will lose not only her voting and second amendment rights, but will also have her ability to even earn a living drastically reduced. Aside from having to disclose her felony conviction on most job applications, she will also be cut off from positions requiring occupational licensing, which, in Virginia includes even interior decorators and nail technicians.
Perhaps justice would be better served by a lesser charge and a substantial number of community service hours where she could toil outside in the hot sun to experience some of the distress her dog experienced locked in the car in 100-degree weather and/or help care for an rehabilitate neglected and mistreated animals at a shelter. That option is more likely to result in rehabilitation than permanently impacting her ability to be a contributing member of society.
The felony charge seems especially harsh considering how leniently law enforcement officers are typically treated for the same exact thing.
- Twelve died of heat exhaustion
- Two were killed by friendly fire (K9s Credo and Nicky)
- One drowned after a dangerous river crossing attempt by his partner (K9 Vigor)
- One dog was run over by his partner (K9 Betcha)
Yet another dog is mysteriously missing and a police officer has been fired for trying pass off another dog as the missing K9.
What has become of these human handlers? The vast majority certainly haven’t experienced the on-site arrest and felony charge that Megan Kurtz Campbell received. Examining only the nine cases involving dogs left in hot cars, I found four that resulted in criminal charges.
- Dan Peabody of the Cherokee County School Police Department was charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals for leaving K9 Inca in a hit car. He has also been charged with making false statements to police regarding retired K9 Dale, who he said choked to death, when he’d actually shot and killed the dog. He resigned from the department before charges were filed.
- “Former Richland Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy John Cummings pleaded guilty to one count of simple animal cruelty and one count of criminal mischief by making a false police report Tuesday……Cummings resigned from the RPSO on Wednesday, June 8. His resignation was accepted in lieu of termination pending other policy violations discovered during an investigation into Duke’s death.Fifth Judicial District Attorney Mack Lancaster said Cummings was required to pay full restitution of over $8,000 to cover the cost of acquiring a replacement K-9 deputy as part of the plea and paid on Tuesday.Lancaster said Cummings also received a six-month suspended sentence on each of the two counts. He will spend two years on supervised probation.”
- “San Juan police Officer Juan Cerrillo Jr. was charged Friday with cruelty to non-livestock animals in the death of Rex, a Belgian Malinois. The 37-year-old officer is free on $4,000 bond. If convicted of the misdemeanor, Cerrillo would lose his ability to be a cop….San Juan police Chief Juan Gonzalez suspended Cerrillo without pay.”
- On July 12, a judge dismissed Corrections Corporation of America Officer Robert Strickland’s animal cruelty charge for the death of K9 Kilo.
As of July 13, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office was still investigating the death of K9 Robbie, but details of his handler’s past behavior makes one wonder why he was ever entrusted with another dog:
“Deputy Tommy Wilcox was placed on paid administrative leave Monday for circumstances not directly related to the incident with Robbie, said ASO spokesman Lt. Brandon Kutner. Kutner declined to elaborate on the specific circumstances relating to Willcox’s administrative leave…
…Willcox kept Kozar, his second K-9 partner, after the dog retired. He was put down by a gunshot from Willcox during a K-9 training activity in 2008. Kozar was 13-years-old and was suffering from hip dysplasia and other medical concerns. Willcox faced criticism for this, but after an investigation, it was determined that no criminal violations were committed.”
This review shows a disturbing continuing trend of K9 handlers killing the dogs that were entrusted to their care through callous disregard and, in some cases, intentional malice, and going mostly unpunished for their actions.
If we’re handing out felony convictions and harsh sentences for letting dogs die in hot cars, that’s certainly what these cops deserve in spades. They are, after all, the ones who want people who kill police dogs to be treated the same as if they’d killed a human officer.