GAIA, the organisation that lobbies for animal rights, has instructed its lawyer to file a legal complaint against a woman who locked her dog in an overheated car in Bruges on Friday. The dog died as a result.
The dog had been left alone in the car for more than an hour in the car park of the AZ Sint-Jan hospital.
“Despite all of the awareness campaigns and tragic incidents from the past, people continue to leave their dogs alone in the car,” said GAIA president Michel Vandenbosch.
To do so is in breach of Article 1 of the law on animal welfare, and carries a fine of up to €12,000 and a prison sentence of up to six months.
“Anyone who does not want to listen to the warnings will suffer the consequences,” he said. “We are sincerely sick of innocent animals dying a terrible and unnecessary death due to the fault of those who are supposed to protect them – their owners.”
The law makes it an offence for anyone to carry out an action – or fail to carry out an action – that leads to the needless death, suffering, injury or mutilation of an animal, and that will be the basis of the GAIA complaint. The organisation has given its lawyer the instruction to file a complaint with the prosecutor’s office at Ypres, where a similar case was prosecuted in 2018.
The animal in that case survived, and the owner was fined. In the current case, where GAIA will apply to be recognised as a civil party, they will call for a maximum sentence.
In warm weather less severe than that crossing over the country at the moment, GAIA argues, a car soon becomes a veritable oven, with temperatures quickly rising to over 50 degrees Celsius. In such cases, leaving a window partially open or parking in the shade offers little comfort.
If the ambient temperature is only 21 degrees, it rises to 32 degrees inside the car in only ten minutes, and to 40 degrees in 30 minutes and 45 degrees in an hour. With current temperatures around 30 degrees to begin with, the progression is even faster and more deadly.
GAIA gave its advice on how to react if you come across an animal locked inside a vehicle in warm weather: Call the police and ask them to attend urgently. Animal neglect is a crime, and police have the right and the duty to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation.
When the animal is free, bring it into the shade, give it something to drink and take it as soon as possible to a vet.