A Kentucky woman has been charged with animal cruelty after police say she left her dog in a kennel outside of a Gallatin movie theater for more than two hours Friday.
Police were dispatched twice to NCG Gallatin on July 21 to perform a welfare check on the dog. The first call occurred around 6:19 p.m. when an employee at the theater reported the animal was left in a kennel in the bed of the truck.
While the vehicle was parked in the shade, a digital infrared thermometer still found that temperatures inside the kennel ranged between 98.6 degrees to 101.5 degrees with a single high reading of 102.1 degrees, according to a Gallatin Police Department incident report.
Despite the heat, responding Officer Paul Thompson wrote that the dog "did not act in any way dehydrated."
"Attached to the inside of the entry door was a large (stainless) steel water (bucket) that was over one-third full of water," Thompson wrote in the report. "(The dog) was panting, but showed no other signs of being in distress. Its gums appeared pink and healthy. It was not drooling excessively or acting lethargic. It was active and playful when showed attention."
A license plate search to determine who owned the vehicle was unsuccessful. The theater's management also told police they could not interrupt movies for an announcement.
Thompson left sometime before 7 p.m. after he filled the dog's water bucket more than halfway full, spilled water onto the floor of the kennel and placed a note on the vehicle.
Witness: 'No question' the dog was in distress
Hendersonville resident Kathy Twitty, who is also the daughter of late country music legend Conway Twitty, said she noticed the dog in the kennel while parking to see a movie with her husband and 10-year-old grandson shortly after 7 p.m.
"This little puppy... was laying straight out and it was panting hard, which meant that it was in trouble," she said when contacted by phone Monday. "It had no water and it was down in the deep bed of the truck with very poor ventilation.
"There was no question that dog was in distress."
Twitty posted pictures and video of the incident on her personal Facebook page as well as in the Hip Gallatin group. As of Monday, both posts had been shared a total of 1,287 times and had received 511 comments.
Assistant Police Chief Bill Sorrells described Thompson as someone who "goes out of his way to take care of animals" and that it's "hard to believe that he just turned a blind eye" to the dog. However, Sorrells said he wished the dog would have been taken back to the police headquarters until it was picked up by its owner.
"There had to have been some kind of concern for everyone to feel the way they did, so we should have taken a little extra precaution and taken care of the dog," he said Monday. "Whether it was in dire need or not, we should have went a little further to take care of that situation."
A second officer responded to another call about the dog around 7:20 p.m., according to the incident report. However, two men had moved the kennel from the truck into the movie theater before the officer arrived.
A witness at the scene told police the dog "was overheated and that she contacted her veterinarian via FaceTime and they believed the dog was also in danger."
"They didn't know if (the owner) was ever coming back," Twitty said. "If the people had not reacted to get that dog into the air conditioning it would have died. I have no doubt that dog would have died a horrible death right out in that heat."
The dog's owner, 23-year-old Victoria Miller, returned to the vehicle around 8:30 p.m. She told police that she "purposely parked on the far side of the building to keep the dog and the kennel in the shade" and that when she went inside "the sun was not on her vehicle and the dog had plenty of water in the bucket."
The officer noted the dog "appeared to (be) in good health" while walking around outside of the cage and "urinated while she was speaking to me."
However, due to the heat and length of time the dog was left outside for, Miller was cite arrested for animal cruelty, according to the incident report. She is scheduled to appear in Sumner County General Sessions Court on Oct. 2.