Update: Local affiliate KXAN reports that Annabelle has been adopted by a loving new family after her owner surrendered her to Austin Animal Center.
An 8-week-old puppy named Annabelle was left inside a hot car on a 100-degree day because her owner "did not want to waste gas" while shopping at a Wal-Mart near Austin, Texas.
As Annabelle suffered inside the hot car, a passerby noticed the dire situation and called the police for help.
According to a Travis County police report, when officers arrived on the scene on June 17, the young puppy was "panting and crying" inside the vehicle. All of the car windows were rolled up, and the sunroof was only partially open.
The police officers were able to press an unlock button with a tire iron by reaching through the sunroof. When the dog was finally taken out of the car, she was reportedly "severely overheating." The pup—who was in "poor condition" and covered in fleas and lesions—was immediately given water and put into an air conditioned space in order to lower her body temperature.
When Annabelle's owner came outside, he revealed he had left the dog in the car for upward of 30 minutes.
He was then arrested and charged with the Class A misdemeanor of Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals because, according to the police report, he “knowingly and intentionally failed unreasonably to provide necessary shelter and water for an animal in his custody." His bond was set at $4,000 and he faces up to a year in jail.
However, on June 22, Manor Municipal Court ruled that Annabelle would have to be returned to her owner. “The Manor Police Department is extremely saddened and disappointed with the court’s ruling today that ordered the release of Annabelle to the owner,” police said in a statement. “The Manor Police Department wishes the best for Annabelle and hope she lives a happy and healthy life.”
After being rescued by officers, Annabelle had been placed in the care of the Austin Animal Center, where officials hoped she would stay. Dr. Kathy Lund told petMD that the puppy was "very healthy" and was "eating and playing in her water dish" during her time at the facility.
All things considered, Annabelle was lucky given the circumstances. The heat index in the car could have reached upward of 120 degrees after just 15 minutes, Lund explained.
Dogs left in hot cars can die due to organ failure. "They go into heat stroke/heat exhaustion very quickly," Lund said. "Their body temperatures can get [up to] 109 degrees [and their] normal temp is 101."
To avoid this sort of situation, pet parent should not take animals along in the car with them during the hot summer months, Lund urged.
Image via Travis County Police