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Toronto dog allegedly left in hot car to die, 2nd death for dog walker

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WATCH: Toronto dog allegedly dies in care of dog walkers – Jun 2, 2022

A Toronto family is heartbroken after their four-year-old dog was allegedly left in a vehicle for several hours leading to his death while in the care of the dogwalker. Now, they’ve learned it’s not the first time it’s happened.

“We just can’t believe our four-year-old healthy, strong dog is gone due to such a negligent act,” Jeff Cochrane said, fighting back tears.

On Monday afternoon, their dog walker, Scott Howley of Fun Dog picked up Cochrane and his wife Anne Chirakal’s dog, Chilly, from their High Park home around 1:30 p.m. This was the routine that had been set in place for three years. The dog, a samoyed breed, was supposed to be returned around 3:30 p.m., but that didn’t happen this time.

Cochrane said he noticed Chilly hadn’t been returned and thought maybe Howley hadn’t returned him yet for a valid reason. Howley had been their dog walker for their previous dog dating back to 2014.

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Eventually, 5 p.m. rolled around and Cochrane said there was no response from Howley, so he called. He says on the other end of the phone, he heard it drop and someone frantically run to the car.

“I heard a door open and I heard him run screaming to the car and then open the door and then more screaming. And then him saying repeatedly, ‘He’s dead, he’s dead,’” Cochrane said.

Chilly, a four-year-old dog was left in the vehicle for several hours leading to his death while in the care of his dog walker. Anne Chirakal

Cochrane said the feeling of shock hit hard, as he struggled to find how someone could miss a 65-pound dog that was always in your face.

“I just don’t understand how someone who purported to love our dog so much could forget that he was in the car and just leave him there,” Cochrane said. “It had to be me phoning him to get to the realization that he left our dog to die in the car.”

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Howley has not been charged and the allegations against him are unproven.  Repeated attempts by Global News to contact Howley via email, phone and a visit to his home resulted in no response.

Read more: This is what happens to your dog when you leave it in a hot car

The family said when they got Chilly from Howley, he wasn’t there to face them, but instead, it was his wife allegedly pleading for them not to involve the police. They said that Chilly was covered in sweat and with his tongue stuck out and blue.

“Our dog died alone and in pain, probably scared, no idea what was going on,” Cochrane said. “It’s a huge betrayal, huge and just so preventable.”

But Howley has a history of a pet dying in his care. In 2018 there was an incident involving another dog, Teddy, who was left in a hot vehicle.

“It was a slap on the wrist,” said Clarke Struthers, Teddy’s owner.

Teddy, pictured with his owners died while in the care of Scott Howley in 2018.

Struthers realizes the pain that Chilly’s owners are feeling. Having lost Teddy four years ago, he said that Howley initially claimed he had dropped Teddy off. Struthers says that when confronted and told that the family had cameras installed, Howley said the dog had jumped out of the window, which led Struthers and friends to go looking around the city for his dog.

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Struthers says eventually, Howley came clean and said that Teddy was with him and had been left in the heat.

“It was shocking. It felt so dishonest and I was stunned,” she said.

Read more: Why you shouldn’t smash the window when you see a dog in a hot car

At the time, Cochrane recalled Howley approaching the family to be a character witness in his ongoing court case regarding Teddy’s death. Howley allegedly told him that he was suffering after his father-in-law passed away, and had not been in the right state of mind. The details provided to Cochrane around Teddy’s death were sparse, but given their track record at the time, they provided the reference and continued working with Howley.

“He explained it in a way that was supportive of his needs and we trusted him. We believed him,” Cochrane said.

Toronto Police confirmed that they are investigating the incident. So is the Ontario Government’s Animal Welfare Services team, which oversees any incidents regarding pets.

“My hope coming out of this is that justice will be (done) and…that he (won’t be able to) operate a business like this ever again,” Cochrane said.

“It shouldn’t happen to anyone once, let alone twice.”

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Like most of her dogs, Chilly was born in Suzanne Gardner Rosehart’s hands. Rosehart, a dog breeder and owner of Kyser Bearr Samoyed explained that Chilly’s initial owner left him at a dog groomer a year into his life. She immediately took him back into her care and vowed not to let him go unless the right family came along. Enter the Cochrane and Chirakal family.

“I knew that this was going to be his family — they’re such good people,” she said.

Read more: OPP warns of dangers of leaving animals in hot cars

People began reaching out to Rosehart to let her know about the dog walker’s past. The dog breeder of 26 years who is entrenched in the dog community said she had never heard about Howley or his past. And when she learned of his past was stunned he was allowed to continue to take care of pets.

“I was just really taken aback that how in the world is this man still in business and how in the world nobody had heard about it,” she said.

The family said they don’t want to see Howley punished in the criminal justice system, but want him to take ownership for his negligence.

“(We just want) him to express how sorry he is about this of his own free will — not coming at the other end of a police investigation,” Cochrane said.

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Immense love for their dog

In conversations with Global News, Chirakal and Cochrane described Chilly as their son and that he “completed” their family. During the interview, Cochrane held his leash and said that he has yet to clean up his bowls. The family has two young daughters who are also feeling the absence of their beloved dog.

“They came home from school and Chilly was not there and we had to explain that Chilly had died and would not be here anymore. It’s just not a conversation you want to have with your kids,” Cochrane said.

Chilly with his owner Anne Chirakal. Anne Chirakal

Every morning Chirakal and Chilly would nuzzle together, as he helped wake her for an early morning walk. Even now, she sits at the window facing the street waiting for him to jump into her arms and watch passing cars and the neighbourhood together. It’s more than just the loss of a pet, but of a companion who helped ease her anxiety and could keep her spirits up.

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Dealing with the raw emotions of Chilly’s death, Chirakal said that her trust in people has been broken and it’s unlikely they will hire a dogwalker again. She noted that many working parents and families need help with their dogs, and despite knowing that many of the dogwalkers out there love their jobs and the pets they work with, coming back to the point of trusting someone feels too far gone right now.

“I don’t trust anyone, I don’t think if we ever go down the road of having another dog will let anyone be in charge of my dog anymore,” she said.

“When I’m home and he’s usually here with me right here and on my arm…I’m a principal of a complicated school and he’s helped me a lot through all those issues,” she said. “When we did things as a family, everything we planned, anything, Chilly was a part of it.”

More regulations needed, dog owners say

The stories being shared on social media and the support the family has received has motivated them to work towards a point where they can help fix the problem.

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“It had given us a reason to truly not have this tragic death in vain,” Cochrane said.

To be a dog walker in the city of Toronto, residents can submit a permit application and need to obtain “commercial general liability insurance coverage for the full term of the permit in the amount of $2,000,000 for bodily injury, property damage and personal injury liability.”

Read more: 5 signs a dog left in a vehicle is in distress (and what you should do if you see one)

That isn’t enough, according to Chirakal. Following Teddy’s death, she found out that there isn’t enough being done to assess the character of dog walkers, oversight of how they treat pets and repercussions when they fail.

The Cochrane-Chirakal family as well as the Struthers agree that there needs to be stricter regulation to keep someone like Howley from working with animals again.

“We’re hoping there can be some reform or legislation or something to help regulate this industry more, to hold people accountable for things like this,” Cochrane said.

 

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