An Ontario woman who was fired from Wal-Mart earlier this week claims that the company fired her for calling the police on a customer who left his dog inside of his truck on a hot day. Carla Cheney said that it wasn’t the first time she had seen such an incident take place, but that when she had notified her higher-ups at Wal-Mart, they told her not to say anything.
Cheney told CBC News that the most recent confrontation took place on Tuesday, before she began her shift at the retail behemoth's Kemptville, Ontario, branch. She was standing outside the store with her co-workers when she saw a man park his truck in the lot and leave his dog behind. According to Cheney, the dog jumped out of the truck’s open window twice before the man rolled the windows up higher and put him back inside. He then left and walked into the store.
"I said, 'Is this really happening? I'm going to give him about five or 10 minutes and then I'm going to call the police,'" Cheney said.
Cheney then called the police who arrived at the parking lot and wrote down the man’s license plate number. After exiting the store, Cheney said that the man drove up to an outdoor seating area where she was sitting with co-workers and she finally confronted him about the issue.
"He pulled up to us and said, 'Hello, ladies, how are you?' And I said, 'You shouldn't leave your dog in the car,'" Cheney said. "He told me it was none of my business and I said that that was fine, that if I saw him do it again I would just call the police next time. He said he was no longer going to be shopping at that Wal-mart, and I said, 'OK.'”
Later, Cheney’s manager approached her about the incident along with a similar one that had taken place the previous week. Cheney defended her actions, but the manager allegedly told her that there was nothing she could do about it. When she argued with him, saying that if it happened again, she would call the police, her manager told her she was fired.
"So I [told him] if I did see something unsafe, that I would just go to the police if I thought it was necessary," Cheney said. "He told me then that I was terminated, he wanted my vest, my badge, and to clean out my locker and that I needed to leave."
"[He] because I was rude to a customer, but I felt because I was not even on the clock, it shouldn't have been an issue anyways. And I don't think it should be an issue even if I was on the clock … because it's on the news and we're being told not to leave animals and children in cars,” she added. "I thought I was doing the right thing."
Under the Ontario SPCA Act it is illegal for a pet owner to leave an animal in a parked car if the temperature could endanger its life. According to the Ottawa Humane Society, even moderately warm outdoor temperatures can quickly become sweltering for dogs on the inside of a parked car. The site adds that dogs are particularly susceptible to high temperatures, and that a temperature of 104° F could prove fatal within a few minutes.
“Even on a relatively mild day, temperatures in parked cars can become dangerous in a matter of minutes. Opening or lowering the windows does little or nothing to slow this process,” the site states.
The organization goes on to advise anyone who reports an animal trapped in a vehicle under warm conditions to call authorities, who have the legal right to free the animal from the car if conditions seem dangerous.
However, while Cheney said she believed she was justified in her actions, she worries that her firing will discourage other Wal-Mart employees from taking the appropriate measures if they see an animal in distress. "Now I'm worried that other associates won't say anything and they'll be afraid that they'll lose their job if they do say something," Cheney said.
Since her termination, Cheney’s supporters have flocked to Facebook to oppose Wal-Mart’s response on the page “Animal Rights for Kemptville Walmart.” As of Thursday, the group had over 6,000 members. “I can't condone vigilantism where citizens at will go around smashing windows if pets are in a car as this leaves it WIDE open for abuse,” one Facebook user wrote in the forum. “I do believe though that it would not likely be considered vandalism if it was properly documented and posted as a term of use for peoples use of Walmarts parking lot… WALMART, seize this opportunity to become the HERO not the VILLAIN!”
In an e-mail to the publication, Wal-Mart declined to comment on Cheney’s firing but said that it had company guidelines that addressed such situations.