Woman arrested in death of dog left in car in Walmart parking lot

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TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — A Trussville woman is facing felony charges for aggravated cruelty to animals after a dog died when it was left for hours in a car in a Walmart parking lot.

Trussville police said in a release Friday that 34-year-old Stephanie Shae Thomas confessed to parking the vehicle in the parking lot, leaving the dog inside the car while she went shopping. 

Investigators determined that the car was parked at approximately 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. Police said Thomas returned to the car a little after 12 p.m. She was released at the scene but was told an investigator would be in contact with her.

On Thursday, Thomas went to the Trussville Police Station where she confessed. She also told investigators that she never left the store to check on the dog and that she lost track of time while she was shopping. 

Outraged comments poured in on a Facebook Live that documented the dog’s removal from the locked vehicle.

Editor’s note: CBS 42 chose not to include the full video in our coverage, as it can be considered distressing, graphic content to some viewers.

Trussville Police Lt. Phil Dillon told CBS 42 they received the call reporting the dog in a vehicle around 11 a.m.

According to Dillon, the officer who responded to the scene got the tag information, then went into Walmart to try and find the owner. After learning the owner was not able to be found in the store, he reportedly returned to the vehicle and contacted his supervisor, who arrived on the scene in about 2 minutes and broke the window to the sedan.

CBS 42 Storm Team Meteorologist Sarah Cantey says in Trussville, temperatures reached the upper 80s in the 11 o’clock hour, but when factoring in humidity and the parking lot pavement, the temperature outside the vehicle would feel like the upper 90s on Wednesday. 

The dog was still breathing when it was rescued from the car, and aid was given to it on the scene, but later died. In the video, officers and a crowd of witnesses can be seen putting ice and water onto the dog, while trying to shade it from the sun. 

Many comments on social media questioned why law enforcement didn’t break the window to rescue the dog sooner.

Animal advocates of Alabama said the state Good Samaritan law, which allows anyone to break into a car if they see a person inside a hot car distressed, does not apply to animals. They want to see that change. 

“What we forget is a dog has to live in our world, but we don’t live in a dogs world so there is a breakdown in communication. Just because they don’t have the same language as us, they do have a language, and they know when they’re too hot and they know when they’re sick and they know when they’re about to die. How anyone can allow that to happen is truly behind my comprehension,” said Veronica Kennedy, with Animal Advocacy for Alabama. 

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