A German shepherd died Sunday after being left in an air-conditioned SUV for about three hours at a west Omaha restaurant, and animal control officials say the dog’s death is a reminder that heat kills.

The owners of the dog told animal control officers that they had left their SUV running and the air conditioning on, said Mark Langan of the Nebraska Humane Society.

The animal control officer who responded said the interior of the vehicle felt cool to the touch.

“This is a good example ... in extreme heat, when it’s very warm and humid, that leaving air conditioning running in a car, in this situation, did not provide enough ventilation for the dog,” Langan said.

The dog had been placed in a plastic kennel in the far back of the SUV, next to the rear window. The vehicle was not parked in the spot of shade available in the restaurant parking lot, according to a waitress.

The couple spent about three hours at DJ’s Dugout, 114th Street and West Dodge Road, having drinks and lunch with friends, said Evelyn Birkel, their server. The couple did not become inebriated, she said.

About 3 p.m., after lunch, the couple went out to their SUV and the man came racing back to ask for ice and water for their dog, Birkel said. Another server who is a nurse went out and did chest compressions on the dog to try to revive it.

The temperature about 3 p.m. was 87 degrees and the heat index was about 90, according to the National Weather Service.

What’s especially disappointing, Birkel said, is that DJ’s Dugout does allow dogs on its patio.

“If people want to bring their dogs to our patio, they are welcome to do so, so that we can avoid situations like this,” she said. “We’ve brought bowls of water out for dogs, we are more than happy to do that.”

It’s not clear how much shade was available on the patio at that time of day, though there are umbrellas, Birkel said.

The couple, who live out of town, could not be reached for comment.

Langan said the owners were not ticketed.

“They took precautions that they thought were adequate for their dog to be in the car,” he said. “They were emotionally distraught enough as it was. The animal control officer didn’t feel like a citation would serve a purpose.”

The issue has provoked a sharp response on Facebook. Photos from the parking lot of DJ’s Dugout — of the couple and the dying or already deceased dog — have been posted on an Omaha woman’s Facebook page. More than 1,600 comments and 5,700 shares were made within the first 24 hours, with most people calling for the pair to be punished, in some instances, severely so.

Nancy Gaarder helps cover public safety and weather events as an editor on The World-Herald's breaking news desk. Follow her on Twitter @gaarder. Phone: 402-444-1102.

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(1) comment

MARY GAUGHAN

I did this once with my Dog.
In my case the air conditioning
failed because the vents were plugged
so no air would circulate. My Dog Frankie almost died if it had not been for a lady Vet @ 80 Dodge Animal Hospital. If you are going to take your Dog with you in the heat then take extra precautions.
Bring cold water, towels, sun shades for the windows. Park where there is full shade and make sure you have a full tank of gas. Make sure the Freon in your AC is sufficient and that you don’t place him in a confined area. We all make mistakes.
Forgive this couple. They did the best they knew.
Bill Gaughan - Omaha

Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.

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