A two-year-old dog died when she was left inside a hot car for seven hours by a day care company.
Kareem Kerry, 32, and his wife Lauren, 27, had used the same centre in Dubai to care for their dog Albi twice a week while they were at work.
The trust built over more than two years shattered when Mr Kerry received a call to say the family pet had died.
Albi had been picked up by handlers from her home in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.
While the incident may have breached animal protection laws, the couple decided not to seek a criminal prosecution against the centre, which The National has not named for legal reasons. But they want to use Albi’s story to warn others about leaving animals unattended inside parked cars.
People found guilty of animal neglect can be fined up to Dh200,000 or sentenced to a year in prison.
“To get the call that our dog was dead was just a horrendous experience,” said Mr Kerry, a restaurant manager from Trinidad.
“My wife was on her way to work at the time when she took the call. She was devastated, just broken.
“On the phone, the handler was trying to tell us what happened but all he could say was that he had just killed Albi. He was quite upset.”
Albi’s ashes were only returned to the couple a week after she died, and they are yet to receive an apology.
A letter of explanation of events leading to the dog’s death was sent to the couple by the dog centre.
According to the statement, Albi was collected at around 7am on Monday, July 12. By then, the temperature was already creeping past 35C and would hit 40C by noon.
The handler responsible said he felt unwell and forgot he had a dog in the car when he arrived at the kennels.
Albi’s absence was only noted more than seven hours later at around 2pm, when the dog was missing from the usual daily photo roll-call to show clients their pets were safe.
Staff returned to the car, but found Albi lying dead on the back seat.
“It is an extremely sad situation, but because of our relationship with the centre we decided not to press charges,” said Mr Kerry.
“As a day care business, there should have been checks and balances to avoid these kind of incidents.
The person responsible was a senior manager, which was quite worrying, Mr Kerry said.
“Day care was so crucial for us taking in a rescue dog, as we did not want her to be on her own while we were not home," he said.
“This was a tragic accident, but the worst part was having Albi locked in the car for so long and she was not even missed.
“The last thing we want is for this negligence to happen again.”
Unlike humans who sweat, dogs eliminate heat from their bodies by panting.
When that process fails, a dog’s body temperature rises and leads to heat stroke, which can become fatal if not treated immediately.
As well as excessive panting, other symptoms of overheating include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhoea, mental dullness or loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement and collapse.
Once rescued from a hot environment, dogs can be offered water to drink and cooled by placing soaked towels on their backs.
“This is a dreadful incident,” said Dr Susan Aylott, a partner at Animalia, animal welfare specialists and veterinary clinic in Abu Dhabi.
“There is no excuse, if the dog was in care it should not have been forgotten about.
“Dogs should be treated with the same level of care as children, but often they are not. This is gross negligence.
“A car can heat up in 10 minutes, with the temperature 20 degrees higher than outside, so this poor dog would have had no chance.”
Other day care centres contacted said most licensed, registered businesses operate a check-in and out system similar to that on a school bus to ensure no animals are left behind.
Text messages are sent to the pet parents to notify them when an animal has been collected, or dropped-off.
“It should be remembered a dog can suffer heat stroke within just a few minutes and that can lead to cardiac arrest, so time is of the essence,” said Dr Aylott.
“These cases should be considered an emergency and acted upon accordingly if an animal is in distress.”
When breaches of good practice are reported in animal-related businesses, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment can issue a warning, followed by a temporary six-month suspension and then permanent closure and licence cancellation for repeat offenders.
Dubai-based lawyer Dr Hasan Elhais, of Al Rowaad Advocates, said the law clearly states day care centres must provide a sufficient number of workers with appropriate experience, knowledge, and professional qualifications required for the animals in their care.
“They must inspect the animals which are in their care at least once a day to check on their conditions,” he said.
“The animal owner has the right to file a civil case to claim damages to cover the dog cost and the moral harm they faced because of the losing their pet.
“Cases should be filed against the company and the person who did the wrongful act jointly.”