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Sweltering pooch lands woman in jail

Carmencita Spinola

Carmencita Spinola

LAWRENCEVILLE -- LAWRENCEVILLE -- An Atlanta woman faces animal cruelty charges for leaving her small dog unattended in a sweltering vehicle Tuesday at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, officials said.

Deputies arrested Carmencita Defreitas Spinola on the misdemeanor charges after finding her dog "Benji" panting heavily inside a vehicle, one window "barely cracked," said Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Stacey Bourbonnais.

A courthouse employee on a smoke break notified deputies of the dog's condition. They estimated its owner was in the building at least 30 minutes, Bourbonnais said.

The outside temperature at the time was 97 degrees, while deputies gauged the temperature inside the vehicle at up to 150 degrees, Bourbonnais said.

"The little dog ... was in obvious distress," she said.

Deputies were about to force entry into the locked vehicle when Spinola came running out of the courthouse and discouraged them, Bourbonnais said.

Deputies gave the dog water and noted that it showed signs of recovery once the vehicle's air conditioning was turned on. The dog was released to a man who accompanied Spinola and agreed to take it home immediately, Bourbonnais said.

Bourbonnais was unsure of the dog's breed or what type of vehicle it was reportedly found in.

Authorities warn that leaving animals unattended during sweltering summer months, when temperatures in vehicles can climb to extremes in a matter of minutes, puts animals in more danger than some owners may realize.

In a similar case last month, police arrested a Gwinnett couple who allegedly left six pets in a minivan in the parking lot of a hotel. Highs that day reached about 93 in metro Atlanta, and the temperature in that vehicle hit 145 degrees, authorities said.

Spinola posted $1,300 bond and was released from the Gwinnett County Jail on Wednesday.