Dog trainer left 2 dogs in car boot and caused their deaths while distracted by social media

Samuel Devaraj
The Straits Times
June 1, 2022

Distracted by a social media post, dog trainer Sabrina Sim Xin Huey left two dogs under her care in the boot of her car and went home.

She realised what she had done 1½ hours later and immediately ran to the car, only to find the two French bulldogs unresponsive.

She took them to a nearby vet, but they were already dead by the time they arrived.

Sim, 30, was fined $8,000 on Wednesday (June 1) for the offence committed on one of the dogs, for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure it was not confined in a manner that subjected it to unnecessary pain and suffering.

Another charge involving the other dog was taken into consideration during sentencing.

She was also disqualified for six months from carrying out any animal-related business and from being in charge of animals while working with any animal-related businesses, but her lawyer has indicated that she intends to appeal against her disqualification.

Sim had pleaded guilty on May 5 to a charge under the Animals and Birds Act.

During sentencing, District Judge Carol Ling said that a confidential settlement was made between Sim and the dog owner.

"She was genuinely sorry for what happened," the judge added.

Judge Ling said that while there was no evidence of recklessness or risk-taking from Sim and that the offence had resulted from an act of forgetfulness, such acts may attract dire consequences and that outcomes do matter.

National Parks Board prosecutor Andy Dinesh said in court documents that the owner of the two dogs - Chocoby and Hunniby - had imported her pets from Australia.

Some time in January 2020, the owner hired Sim, who had been a dog trainer since about 2014, to engage Chocoby for 10 sessions. Subsequently, when Hunniby arrived in Singapore, she engaged Sim to provide training for it as well.

The arrangement involved boarding and training services where both dogs would stay with Sim during the whole training period.

On Aug 25, 2020, Sim put both dogs in the open boot area of her hatchback car and drove them for training at an undisclosed location.

The training session, which started at about 12.30pm, ended at around 1.45pm after which Sim put both dogs back in the car boot and drove home, with the air-conditioning switched on.

Upon reaching home at about 2.30pm, she parked her car in an unsheltered spot in the open-air carpark with the windows wound up and turned off the engine and the air-conditioning.

The prosecutor said: "Distracted by a social media post involving a former customer's second dog being bitten by another dog, (Sim) forgot to remove both dogs from the car when she exited the car.

"She then closed the car door leaving both animals in the car boot. She then went up to her apartment."

She realised that she left the dogs in the car at around 4pm and they were taken to the nearby vet at about 4.30pm.

Tissue samples from Chocoby were sent for a post-mortem, and the report stated that it had been in a stressful state before its death with an increased red blood cell count.

The medical summary supported the diagnosis of heat stress as the cause of death.

For failing to take reasonable steps to ensure Chocoby was not confined in a manner that subjected it to unnecessary pain and suffering, Sim could have been fined up to $40,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.

The Straits Times

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