Who, age What Where When Last known address
Duong Thuy Nguyen, 36 chihuahua left in hot car while owner shops, dies

Grandville, MI

Kent County

June 14, 2009 Grand Rapids, MI
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date
Misdemeanor   1 chihuahua Convicted  

A Chihuahua died after its owner left it in a hot car at RiverTown Crossings Mall, police say.

Customers first spotted the dog in the car around 2 p.m. near Macy's.

Mall General Manager Randy Zimmerman said neither the mall nor the Grandville Fire Department was notified until 4:45 p.m. Crews responded to the scene, and firefighters got the dog out of the car. The animal was alive but its condition was deteriorating. So they put water in a syringe and tried getting the dog to drink.

But it died soon thereafter in the mall parking lot.

Although the car's windows were cracked, it was too hot inside for the dog to survive. Police say the outside temperature was around 78 degrees at the time. Inside the car, animal control officers estimate the temperature soared to somewhere between 98 and 100 degrees.

"I just can't express enough caring for the children and animals that have to put up with, sometimes, our stupidity," said fire chief Harvey Veldhouse, of the Grandville Fire Department. "(Imagine) a 15 minute time frame, 20 minute time frame, in the heat of a parking lot with black asphalt with the sun bearing down on you. Try it yourself. Jump into your own vehicle. And leave the windows all up. You know what it's like."

A dog's build - meant to protect the animal in the cold winter months - is what makes it more susceptible to heat in the summer, veterinarian Richard Siegel said.

"Dogs only perspire through their mouth and through their feet and so their mechanism of cooling is somewhat handicapped," he said.

"People underestimate how rapidly (overheating) can occur."

Firefighters assisted police to help get the dog out of the car because they were unable to find the animal's owner. Police will not release the owner's name.

The pet's owner could face charges, including animals abandoning/cruelty resulting in animal's death, which is a one-year misdemeanor -- a $2,000 fine and/or up to 300 hours of community service. The decision is up to the county prosecutor.

Veldhouse said his department was called to RiverTown Crossings between five and eight times last year for similar complaints.

"Since the mall moved in to Grandville, we're seeing a number of cases on that that we wouldn't have seen in the past," he said. "We see pets. We see kids that are left in the car for just a minute."

Update 6/25/09:  A Grand Rapids woman wept as she recalled the alleged heat-related death of her Chihuahua, which she left in her car while she shopped at RiverTown Crossings mall.

"It was not intentional -- it was being just stupid," Duong Thuy Nguyen told The Press through an interpreter outside court.  "We loved the dog."

Nguyen pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty resulting in death in Grandville District Court. The misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, $2,000 in fines and 300 hours of community service.

Grandville Police say Nguyen, a 36-year-old mother of two, left her male dog, Lucky, in her car while she shopped at the Grandville mall June 14. The outside temperature was 78 degrees when firefighters freed the dog. Investigators estimated the interior temperature at 100 degrees.

Firefighters provided the dog oxygen through a mask and squirted water into its mouth from a syringe, but it died at the scene.

The car had been parked about three hours, with the windows cracked an inch, before the dog was rescued just before 5 p.m.

The Kent County Animal Shelter has said temperatures can exceed 120 degrees in a car, and noted dogs cannot perspire and only cool themselves by panting and through pads on their feet.

Judge Peter Versluis allowed Nguyen to remain free on a $2,000 personal-recognizance bond but, as a condition, said she cannot have any pets. Nguyen said she owns no other animals.

When he asked if she understood the charges, Nguyen said through interpreter Anne Pham: "Yes, but I did not do this intentionally."

After her arraignment, Nguyen said she loved the dog and that it usually slept in the family's beds.  "It was just accidental. I don't know what else to tell you."

Update 7/29/09:  A woman who left her Chihuahua in the car while she shopped pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and abandonment resulting in death.

Nguyen, of Grand Rapids, was ordered in Grandville District Court this week to pay $203 in fines. She also will have to reimburse the city for emergency services provided outside RiverTown Crossings mall. Firefighters freed the dog, Lucky, from a car where the temperature reached an estimated 100 degrees.


The Grand Rapids Press