Poodle owner who locked dog in car cleared of animal welfare breach

Climate control settings in Tesla were always set at 20 degrees, Dublin businessman told court

A expert witness from Tesla confirmed the car was fitted with a climate control system that could stay activated when the car was locked from the outside. File image: Tesla

A expert witness from Tesla confirmed the car was fitted with a climate control system that could stay activated when the car was locked from the outside. File image: Tesla

 

A businessman has been cleared of breaking animal welfare laws after a judge accepted he had climate control switched on when he left his poodle in his car during a heatwave.

Dog lover Ross Hunt, with an address at Rock Road, Blackrock, Dublin, pleaded not guilty to charges under the Animal, Health and Welfare Act.

A concerned passer-by noticed the poodle, Loki, in the Tesla S model car parked at Herbert Road, in Dublin 4.

At the time, Mr Hunt was having a meeting with his solicitor at Roly’s Bistro in Ballsbridge, Dublin District Court heard.

The trial heard his small poodle was seen inside the Tesla for about an hour. The car windows were up during the summer’s day in last year’s heatwave.

Mr Hunt, a qualified safari ranger, told the court he loved animals and he runs an artificial intelligence business which helped monitor cows and their welfare in farms in north America.

He said he brought Loki everywhere with him and the climate control settings in his Tesla were always set at 20 degrees. They also stayed turned on even after the vehicle was locked, he said.

He also included Loki in work activities and online promotions of his business, he said.

He told the court he tried to explain about his car’s air conditioning system to a Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) inspector and a garda, but they did not get into his car to check if it was cooler inside than outside.

He said he showed his phone with an app displaying the car’s inside temperature.

He had also thought they were going to break one of the windows as he came running to them.

Expert witness

In cross-examination, with prosecution counsel Gareth Robinson, he said he regretted the way he spoke to the witnesses but also told the court, the dog was not left long, did not need water and was not distressed or panting.

The court heard that he then left with Loki.

A expert witness from Tesla confirmed the car was fitted with a climate control system that could stay activated when the car was locked from the outside.

In closing arguments, defence barrister, Oisin Clarke submitted that because of the car’s air conditioning system it did not matter how hot it was outside, the inside temperature remained the same.

Dismissing the charges, Judge John Brennan said he accepted Mr Hunt’s evidence and said it was quite clear he was very loving, responsible and caring dog owner.

He described it as an example of “a dog is a man’s best friend”.

Witness Louise Martin was also commended by the judge. She contacted gardaí and the DSPCA after she saw the dog in the car on June 27th last year.

In evidence, Garda Cormac O’Donnell said the windows of the Tesla were closed when he arrived and the dog was in the footwell of the car.

The garda said that when the accused arrived he was “dismissive of the whole incident from start to finish and did not believe it was a big deal”.

“I do recall him stating busybodies gobshites, nothing better to do.”

The prosecution was brought by the Department of Agriculture which had also brought a Met Éireann weather expert to court. But that witness did not have to give evidence after the defence accepted it was a hot day.