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Dog trainer fined S$8,000 after leaving 2 bulldogs in car boot, causing their deaths from heat stress

SINGAPORE — A professional dog trainer who accidentally left a client’s two French bulldogs in the boot of her hatchback car for about 1.5 hours, leading to their deaths from heat stress, was fined S$8,000 on Wednesday (June 1).

Two French bulldogs named Chocoby and Hunniby died after they were left locked in the boot of a hatchback for about 1.5 hours in a car park.

Two French bulldogs named Chocoby and Hunniby died after they were left locked in the boot of a hatchback for about 1.5 hours in a car park.

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  • A professional dog trainer was fined S$8,000 and disqualified from running an animal-related business for six months
  • Sabrina Sim Xin Huey accidentally left two French bulldogs in her car boot for about 1.5 hours, leading to their deaths from heat stress
  • She was distracted by a social media post at the time when she was locking her car

SINGAPORE — A professional dog trainer who accidentally left a client’s two French bulldogs in the boot of her hatchback car for about 1.5 hours, leading to their deaths from heat stress, was fined S$8,000 on Wednesday (June 1).

Sabrina Sim Xin Huey was distracted by a social media post about a former customer’s dog being bitten by another canine at the time of the incident.

She then locked the French bulldogs, named Chocoby and Hunniby, in her car that was parked in an unsheltered spot in an open-air car park.

Sim, 30, was also disqualified from running an animal-related business for six months. The maximum term is one year.

Her lawyer Clement Julien Tan said that she will file an appeal against the disqualification order, because her training business is her sole source of income.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty last month to an offence under the Animals and Birds Act for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that Chocoby was not subjected to unreasonable or unnecessary pain or suffering.

Another similar charge in relation to Hunniby was taken into consideration for sentencing.

Sabrina Sim Xin Huey left two French bulldogs in the boot of her car when she reached home at 2.30pm on Aug 25, 2020.

On Wednesday, District Judge Carol Ling noted that Sim was a first-time offender and there was no evidence of recklessness or risk-taking on her part.

Her behaviour after the incident, including taking the dogs to a veterinarian and compensating the dogs’ owner with an undisclosed amount of money, also clearly demonstrated her remorse and contrition, the judge added.

While considering whether to ban her from running an animal-related business, District Judge Ling noted Mr Tan’s previous mitigation submission where he had said that “forgetting is human error”.

The judge did not disagree with this, but said that "acts of forgetfulness, while attributable to the fallible nature of human beings and regrettable, do sometimes attract dire consequences”.

“The fact is, outcomes do matter. The extent of harm caused by one’s actions is a relevant and important factor in determining the sentence,” she added.

The judge also agreed with the prosecution that as a professional dog trainer, the duty of care expected from Sim was higher than that expected of someone who is not.

Imposing a disqualification order would send an effective signal to others in the industry about the standards they have to maintain, District Judge Ling added.

Sim, who has worked as a dog trainer since around 2014, was engaged by the bulldogs’ owner to train them when they were imported from Australia.

The arrangement involved boarding and training services where both dogs would stay with Sim during the whole training period.

However, after she got home at 2.30pm and was at the open-air car park, she got distracted by a social media post about a former customer’s dog being bitten by another dog.

She then alighted from the car and locked it, forgetting to take the two bulldogs with her.

About 1.5 hours later, Sim realised that she had left the dogs in the vehicle and immediately ran down from her home to find them unresponsive.

She took another 30 minutes to reach a veterinary clinic and by then, both animals were already dead.

A post-mortem examination of one of the dogs’ tissue samples found that it had been in a stressful state before it died. The medical findings supported the diagnosis of heat stress as the cause of death.

Sim could have been jailed for up to two years or fined up to S$40,000, or punished with both.

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court crime dogs death dog trainer Car heat social media

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