Professional dog walker Emma Paulsen residing in Langley, British Columbia, has been charged with six offences under the Criminal Code of Canada and the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after leaving six dogs in the back of her truck, were they all died from heatstroke.

This is a situation which is precedent setting. We are very pleased at Crown’s decision to approve charges under pretty much every single possible section of animal cruelty that could have been in this particular case,” Marcie Moriarty of the SPCA, told reporters.

The charges under the Criminal Code include killing or injuring an animal, causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal, failing to provide adequate care to the dogs and mischief. The Crown also invoked a newer preventative section of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act – enacted in 2012 – which makes it an offence to fail to provide adequate care to an animal.

back-of-truck-emmaEmma who is a single mother, had been walking dogs for a living and from all accounts, had a great reputation. In May of this year, with six dogs in her care she had put in the back of her truck as she usually does on the way to the dog park, she stopped to run an errand and when she returned, they were all dead.

She panicked and concocted a story about a thief breaking into her van and stealing the canines. One of the dogs belonged to her family and the five others had rightful owners who had trusted her to pet sit them.

It is not unusual to see dogs in their master’s car at the mall with a window cracked down. Emma had left the dogs with the window halfway down and some water, but this year in BC, the weather has been unusually hot and it is not safe to leave any living thing in an enclosed car for any period of time.

emma-dogsAfter she lied to the owners about their dogs’ disappearance and to the police about the fake dognapping, they went public and an almost week-long search for the animals ensued. Emma participated in the search campaign. Her story was that she stopped to use a public restroom for about 10 minutes while the dogs waited in the car and they were missing when she came back.

One of the owners came to the conclusion that the story made no sense so he hired a pet investigation company to get to the bottom of this.

Before the investigation could produce any leads, Emma decided to come clean and confessed she had left the 6 dogs in her truck for 45 minutes to go shopping. All six were dead when she came out and in her state of panic, she made the dreary decision to hide the dogs in a ditch to cover up the tragedy. She even drove to another town to bury the evidence.

Emma was devastated and “It’s a catastrophic tragedy she will regret for the rest of her life,” her mother told the media.

At first, the authorities automatically assumed she did not intentionally kill them because one of the deceased dogs was hers. And the SPCA issued a reminder to never leave animals of any kind in a car on a warm day. “Dogs don’t have sweat glands as people do, so in vehicles they just don’t stand a chance,” the organization said. ”It can take less than 10 minutes for a dog to suffer brain damage, or die. We always urge people: If you love your pets, leave them at home while you’re running errands, unless you can be with them all of the time.’

The dog owners

The dog owners

Later on, the case caused such a public outcry, that the authorities decided to throw the book at Emma. For the dogs’ owners, the news of the charges is what they’ve been waiting to hear. “It’s good news that justice will be served against her for what she put everybody through,” Amber Williams, an owner of one of the dogs, said.

I don’t think it really gets any easier because they suffered and that’s the part I don’t think I’ll ever get past,” said Jennifer Myers, who owned Buddy.

If convicted, Paulsen faces up to five years in jail, a fine of $75,000 and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

I have mixed feelings about this case because I can understand the pain of a pet owner after such a tragic loss, but I miss the good old days when you did not have to involve the law every time someone messed up. Without the huge media campaign, I wonder if the outcome would have been the same.  brookswood-6

Update: Paulsen ended up pleading guilty to two charges – animal cruelty and mischief. I am very troubled by the fact that applause broke out in a Surrey courtroom on January 28, 2015, when this defendant was led away to begin serving a six-month jail sentence. Her sentence will be followed by two years of probation. The judge also ordered that Paulsen be banned from owning animals for 10 years and banned for life from operating a business caring for others’ animals. I am convinced that community service would have been a better option for this single mother.