Pair cleared of dog cruelty charges

TWO experienced greyhound trainers whose dogs died in vehicles parked outside a race-track were yesterday cleared of animal cruelty charges.James McArdle and Sally Ann Clark, whose greyhound puppies died in separate vehicles last July at the Mildenhall Stadium, were told they had done everything they could to "lessen any risk there was" of heat stroke.

TWO experienced greyhound trainers whose dogs died in vehicles parked outside a race-track were yesterday cleared of animal cruelty charges.

James McArdle and Sally Ann Clark, whose greyhound puppies died in separate vehicles last July at the Mildenhall Stadium, were told they had done everything they could to "lessen any risk there was" of heat stroke.

District judge Malcolm Reed sitting at Mildenhall Magistrates Court then dismissed the charges against them.

Speaking after the verdict, both defendants, who had denied causing unnecessary suffering to the animals, said they were delighted and relieved.


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Ms Clark, who collapsed in tears at the end of the case, said: "It was meant to be because we are innocent. We have suffered for over a year – suffered terribly."

Mr McArdle said: "I'm absolutely delighted. I have not slept for the last 18 months, which have been nothing short of terrible. I did not know how it would go and at the end of the first day I thought I had no chance. I'm just very, very pleased."

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Mr McArdle said he now hoped to get his license back and get back to racing dogs.

Summing up at the end of the two-day trial, Judge Reed told them: "Ultimately, all the puppies and other dogs that were outside in the car park were the sole responsibilities of their owners.

"You were aware of the affects of dogs in cars. You were caring and careful of these dogs.

"It seems very obvious you had serious distress at losing a dog. You were aware of the risks involved in keeping dogs in the car or van.

"They did die of heat stroke, therefore it must have caused them unnecessary suffering."

But then he said that if it were too risky to leave their dogs in the car, they should not leave them unattended anywhere, which seemed unreasonable.

The court had earlier heard Mr McArdle, of Lester Piggot Way, Newmarket, had arrived at the trials at about 6.15pm with four dogs. He returned at regular intervals to check the dogs, but at 7.30pm found one had died and the other was stressed.

Ms Clark, 43, of Brightlingsea Road in Thorrington, Essex, had left her puppy in the car and returned at 7.45pm to find the dog lying in the passenger seat's footwell. It gasped and died.

The court had earlier heard from retired vet Colin Vogel who said in his 35-year experience he had come across only one other case of a dog dying in a car at night.

Mr Vogel said it could only take five minutes for a dog to die of heat stroke and explained all dogs were different and would cope differently to the weather conditions.

He pointed out it was a little known fact that high humidity can cause heat exhaustion, not just heat, and weather reports proved that the temperature was dropping, which meant it was reasonable for both owners to leave their dogs unattended in their vehicles.

The court also heard that two other people had trouble with their dogs because of the weather conditions.

Defending Ann Gregory said as a result of the deaths Mildenhall Stadium had changed its policy to stop dogs from being left in cars and added while the RSPCA warn people not to leave dogs in hot cars, the risk of high humidity is not advertised as widely.

Judge Reed made it clear Mildenhall Stadium was not to blame and said both Miss Clark and Mr McArdle had known they would have to leave their dogs in vehicles whilst attending the trials.

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