Dog owner cleared of cruelty as his Tesla's climate control meant his poodle was chilling
An Artificial intelligence (AI) expert has been cleared of breaking animal welfare laws after a judge accepted he had climate control switched on when he left his dog in his car during a heatwave.
Animal lover Ross Hunt, of Rock Road, Blackrock, Dublin, pleaded not guilty to charges under the Animal, Health and Welfare Act.
A passer-by noticed toy poodle, Loki, in the Tesla S model car parked at Herbert Road, in Dublin 4, while Mr Hunt was attending a meeting with his solicitor at Roly's Bistro in Ballsbridge, Dublin District Court heard.
Loki was seen for about an hour in the Tesla whose windows were up despite it being a summer's day.
Mr Hunt tried to explain about his car's air-conditioning system to a Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) inspector and a garda, but they did not get into his car to check if it was cooler inside than outside. He said he showed his phone with an app displaying the car's inside temperature.
DSPCA inspector Patrick Mulcahy said it was 25C degrees and he had checked it on his phone. The car windows were pulled up and the dog was in the passenger footwell looking for shade, he said.
Its tongue was hanging out and he believed it was in distress. He said the car was in the full glare of the sunshine and there was no trees or shade. He said there was an empty bowl of some fluid which had been turned sideways. He took photos of the dog and the car, the court was told.
When Mr Hunt arrived he tried to caution him that anything he said would be taken down and used in evidence. He said the accused told him he did not understand.
Asked why there was no water Mr Hunt said "dogs don't need water for an hour".
He said the accused showed him an app on his phone indicating it was 25C. He denied that it said 20C.
Garda Cormac O'Donnell said the windows of the Tesla were closed.
"The sun was beaming down, there was heatwave and it appeared the dog was trying to get under the dashboard as much as possible to get out of the sunlight," he said.
When the accused arrived he was "dismissive of the whole incident from start to finish and did not believe it was a big deal".
"I do recall him stating busybodies, gobs**tes, nothing better to do," the garda said, adding that Mr Hunt had been "agitated".
Witness Louise Martin said she had seen the dog in the car.
She went for a walk but returned after 10 minutes "because I could not stop thinking of the car".
She she rang the DSPCA and told Garda Cormac O'Donnell that she was worried about the dog after an ad campaign about dogs getting left in cars, she said.
Ms Martin, who was commended by the judge, said Mr Hunt "referred to myself and the garda as interfering busybodies" and he probably swore too.
In cross-examination with Gareth Robinson, prosecuting, Mr Hunt said he regretted the way he spoke to the witnesses but the dog had not been left long, did not need water and was not distressed or panting.
A Tesla expert confirmed the car was fitted with a climate control that could stay activated when the car was locked from the outside.
Oisin Clarke, defending said that because of the car's air conditioning it did not matter how hot it was outside, the inside temperature remained the same.
Mr Hunt, a qualified safari ranger, said he loved animals.
Dismissing the charges, Judge John Brennan said it was clear Mr Hunt was very loving, responsible and caring dog owner and the case as being an example of "a dog is a man's best friend".