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Hot cars & pets: No charges for SPCA exec in dog’s death in hot car

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, August 27th, 2009 at 7:03 am in Hot Cars.

cars pets

Kind of a shocker to read this story in your morning Times:

Associated Press:
RICHMOND, Va. —A prosecutor says no charges are planned against an executive for an anti-animal cruelty group whose 16-year-old blind and deaf dog died after accidentally being left in a hot car for four hours.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Tracy Thorne-Begland said Wednesday charges are not planned against Robin Starr, CEO for the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Don’t let your pet get hot under the collar. Photo by Flickr user Peta2Flickr used under a Creative Commons License
hot doggie

Starr says she didn’t realize “Louie” was in the car until noon. Starr’s husband, Ed, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he put the dog in her car’s cargo area as she got ready for work Aug. 19 but forgot to tell her. She often took the dog to work with her. Robin Starr took the dog to two clinics, but he died of kidney failure.

The National Weather Service says the temperature had reached 91 degrees by noon that day.

The board of the SPCA says it still supports Starr, who has been CEO since 1997 and does not plan to resign. *** end of Associated Press Story ***

I’m curious. If this had happened to a plain old local resident and not the CEO of the local SPCA … do you think the local prosecutor have handled it any differently?

SHOULD the prosecutor have handled it any differently?

Accidents like this can happen to anyone. Should you be punished maybe with charges of animal cruelty for accidentally causing the death of a dog by leaving it in a hot car? Or is the loss of your beloved pet punishment enough?

What do you think? /Gary

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8 Responses to “Hot cars & pets: No charges for SPCA exec in dog’s death in hot car”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Starr’s negligence in informing his wife that the dog was placed in the cargo area of the car comes across as human error, as does her failure to recognize the 16 yr old blind, deaf dog as being in the car.

    I feel safe in presuming that the dog was not as active of a passenger as he was in his younger years. I also believe that a CEO of the SPCA just would not leave a dog in the car, regardless of weather conditions.

    Actions involving outright animal cruelty are intentional; and, they expand way beyond a glitch in common sense.

    Having a dog for sixteen years; holding a position with an agency that advocates animal rights; and then being accused of cruelty apparently because of non-communication simply doesn’t jive.

    I think that the Starrs are paying for their error in common sense. For that reason, I would keep the concentration upon intentional acts of animal cruelty–especially when committed by people with past histories of similar crimes.

    If anything, what the Starrs have learned may provide them assistance in reaching the members of society who just don’t get what the words “animal cruelty” mean.

  2. Kris Says:

    She and her husband are just as guilty of animal neglect as anyone else. Especially as she is employed by an organization that targets other people who own animals.
    They should both be charged with animal neglect.

  3. Alex Says:

    People make tragic mistakes. Try on some compassion and humility.

  4. Barbara Says:

    This would not qualify as “intentional negligence” under tort law, Kris. Everyone, everyday, is negligent in some action. An example would be someone who accidentally rear-ended a car with kids in it. That doesn’t automatically classify either driver as an abuser.

    There would have to be sufficient factors predisposing to the occurrence to justify a claim of intentional neglect. And, there would have to be factors AFTER the occurrence to support the claim.

    The Starrs made a mistake, and they sought medical assistance for the dog. Were they not concerned about the dog, they could have just let him die.

  5. Paula Says:

    This sounds like an innocent but tragic mistake. What an awful turn of events for the dog and the family.

  6. Sarah Sweet, PREEN Says:

    Dear Gary,
    I have witnessed two heat related abuse cases where the owners knowingly left dogs in their cars in Marin County on hot days where temps are upwards of 95 while they went shopping. I had the grocery store make 5 announcements for the owners to get their dogs out, called the police and marin animal care and control but one of the dogs was hyperventilating and lying on the bottom floor of the driver’s side. After an hour and with witnesses, I used a cockatiel ladder to unlock the car from the outside and had the dogs in my car to bring to the Animal Care and Control. They were so dehydrated that they couldn’t drink water. A witness and I watered them down in my car. When the owners came out, they grabbed the dogs out of my car, made no apologies or excuses as to why they left their dogs in such heat for over an hour with 1/2 inch cracks in the window and, knowing the police were on their way, they took off. This week I confronted a woman coming out of another grocery store with her Vishla locked in the car with no ventilation for over 1/2 an hour. She rudely replied, “She’s okay,” and left with no guilt whatsoever. Please warn your readers that they could get arrested for opening a car, I did no damage to the first car and only acted when I thought one of the dogs was in the process of dying.

    Please read and publish this letter that I have written to the director of the Contra Costa Animal Care and Control. Please let me know if you, as a journalist can do anything to help us save these parrots. Thank you so much, Sarah Sweet, PREEN

    Email letter to (Anyone can email him and respond to this letter):

    My name is Sarah Sweet and I have been rescuing, rehabilitating, and working with parrots for over fifteen years. I own a parrot rescue called PREEN in Marin County and I am a co founder of the Wing Foundation, a parrot rescue based in San Francisco that helps parrots throughout the entire Bay Area, owned by an ER doctor, Dr. Dana Strome. We have been contacted and made aware of two existing and very severe parrot abuse cases in your county that we have personally witnessed and reported to your animal care and control and no action has been taken to help these terribly abused parrots that are living in illegal and in humane conditions. One is in Martinez, at a Metal welding plant a few businesses down from Ace Tires on 3450 Pacheco Blvd in Martinez. Dana Strome and I filled out and made a full report of the half dead parrots exposed to the elements in filthy cages and with serious issues such as self mutilation, dehydration and malnurishment several years ago. Nothing was done. More recently Dana Strome witnessed then reported that there are two large blue and gold macaw parrots that are housed in the back of Yellow Cab Company’s garage in Walnut Creek. An ex employee somehow contacted Dana at the Wing Foundation and she told Dana that she reported the extreme conditions that they must live under such as inhaling large amounts of carbon monoxide, never seeing the light of day and also in filthy cages with dirty water and no consistent food. It has been scientifically proven that these parrots have the cognitive and communicative abilities of a six year old human child and that they are supposed to live 60-90 years. In both situations we have followed up and nothing is being done by your animal care and control under your jurisdiction. Our next step is the press. I plan on launching a full press attack because we have no further choice. Fortunately for the welfare of parrots we have a great and experienced Animal Care and Control Seargent in Marin County who understands the severity of parrot abuse and she takes action in a swift manner. We also have a wonderful Animal Care and Control officer in San Francisco. I don’t know if you have ever been made aware of these two situations but soon Contra Costa readers will know that nothing is being done in these horrendous cases. I am just notifying you that we are taking action to save these parrots and I would like to hear from you as to why nothing has been done.

    Please contact me at your earliest convenience either by email or phone. We are not going to let this go. We would like your help but will do whatever is in our power to save them.

    Thank you for your time and consideration,

    Sarah Eve Sweet, 415 233-2449
    PREEN, The Wing Foundation

    Dr. Dana Strome, President, The Wing Foundation
    415 722-0320

  7. john Says:


    You apparently have no job, at first I thought you were a teenager, but now I can see you are certifiably crazy.
    Why don’t you do yourself a favor and get a real job instead of wandering around marin county harassing pet owners. People like you should not be allowed out of rooms with padded walls

  8. Sarah Says:

    I’m just reading this insult and ignorant comment that was made by an obviously self centered moron, John, who appears to have no compassion or responsibility toward animals. His hostility leads me to believe that he is one of those people that leave his dogs in a locked car in the heat of summer.

    In writing the letter to the Contra Costa Animal Care and Control, I was trying to get fast results for their negligence and apathy. The officers who followed up on our reports wrote in the files that they could see no inhumane conditions in each case. I won’t delve into this issue further at this time.

    However I would like to clarify who I am with regard to animal advocacy and my purpose in making this world a better place.

    I am well educated, have two successful businesses and my life is devoted to animal and parrot advocacy, rescue and education, above all else. If John was paying attention, he would have noticed that my business, soon to be a 501c non profit, is PREEN.
    I have lived and worked around the world, including living and working on a ten million dollar estate as a horse and animal caretaker. I’ve learned that there are people like myself who are gifted, creative and passionate about animal advocacy, who use their background to contribute to animal welfare. We are dedicated to protecting and caring for animals and to making this world a better place.

    That being said, I am fortunate to have animal clients and friends all over the world, who appreciate the work that I do and who are as passionate about their animals as I am.

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