One recurring theme in our coverage of dog news this summer has been the dangers of leaving your dog in the car. In July, I wrote that four police dogs had died this summer because their handlers had left them in hot cars. According to the Weather Channel, there are actually at least nine police dogs who have died from being left in cars since the end of May. The problem certainly isn’t confined to police officers, but the fact that it’s such a problem among people who handle dogs for a living just shows how common it is to leave your dog “for just a few minutes” on a hot day.
One person who realized just how dangerous it is to leave a dog in a hot car is Cristal Perez, who was a waitress at Longhorn Steakhouse in Millville, New Jersey, until Aug. 11. Perez was fired because when she served a couple outside, she told them that it was “wrong” for them to leave their dog outside in the car. The temperature that day was between 84 and 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, and as the chart in this story shows that could have meant a 100-plus degree car interior.
“[The dog] was pretty active,” Perez told the Press of Atlantic City. “He was panting pretty heavily. It looked like he was having an anxiety attack.”
Two other customers were also concerned about the dog, and Perez says that she heard them call the police about it. As the dog’s owners left, she told the woman that “she was lucky to be leaving before the cops came.”
The restaurant gave her an immediate four-day suspension when the couple complained, and when she returned to work, they told her that she was fired.
There are likely to be a lot of people who think that Perez got exactly what she deserved. After all, servers are supposed to serve and be diplomatic to customers, if not outright deferential, right?
That may be a common conception of customer service, but in my opinion, it should only be expected to go so far, especially at the wages that food servers are paid these days. We have plenty of evidence — in the form of dead bodies — that being left in a hot car is lethal for dogs. Although the description of Perez’s words sounds a little bit harsh — maybe even a tad self-righteous — it’s not unreasonable to call someone out for leaving their dog in the car on a hot day.
In response to media inquiries about the firing, Longhorn communications manager has claimed that “The dog was never in any danger,” because the couple had left the air conditioning on while they dined. This is patently ridiculous, since accounts of the incident say that they spent about an hour in the restaurant. For the air conditioning to be on all that time would mean that they’d have left the keys in the ignition and the engine running. Any car that I’ve ever owned would be almost dead by the time I finished my meal had I done that.
There is a persistent problem not only with people leaving their dogs in hot cars, but with the people who try to intervene being punished. Earlier this summer, we wrote about Michael Hammonds, a veteran who was arrested after he broke the window of a car to save a dog. It turned out that while Georgia law allowed for people to perform such actions to save a child abandoned in a car, doing it for a dog was illegal.
What do you think? Was Cristal Perez right in speaking up, or should she have just kept quiet and let the couple eat their meal?
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