Woman charged in death of dog that spent hours in hot car outside AL store

TRUSSVILLE, AL (WBRC) - A woman who Trussville police say left a dog in a hot car on July 4 has been arrested, Trussville police confirm.

Stephanie Shae Thomas, 34, is in the Jefferson County Jail charged with Aggravated Cruelty to Animals. Thomas has a $25,000 bond.

According to Lt. Phil Dillon with the Trussville Police Department, Thomas parked an automobile in the Walmart parking lot in Trussville around 4 a.m. Wednesday morning.

We're told she left the dog alone in the vehicle at that time.

Police say they are trying to figure out if Thomas was actually in the store for the entire eight hours, and if so, they want to know what she was doing for all that time.

Walmart security is said to have surveillance video that captured her and will share that with police.

Authorities were called to the store around 11 a.m. after some folks in the parking lot noticed the dog was in distress.

Employees in the store attempted to page the owner of the vehicle, but she never responded.

Soon after, police say they busted out the window of the vehicle to rescue the dog.

We're told the dog was alive when removed from the vehicle, but sadly she died soon thereafter.

Police are unsure why Thomas was at the store, but she is not a Walmart employee.

Thomas has several prior felonies on her record.

The charge she now faces carries a potential prison term of one to 10 years if she were convicted.

There has been a consistent outcry on social media that this is an issue of moral responsibility. Dr. Enrique Carlo of Steel City Emergency Vets encouraged the backlash presented in this tragedy case.

"Be the voice of the voiceless. You're their advocates, They're defenseless on a hot sunny day. They can't escape. It's like an infant in a car," he said.

There was proposed legislation last year that granted civil immunity for those who break into a vehicle to save a suffering animal, but it was tabled indefinitely last May.

"You want to call the police, you want to document the situation with your phone," Dr. Carlo said. "You might have to break into the car and deal with the consequences later. You can't sit by and let an animal suffer. You wouldn't do that to a person."

NOTE: We have chosen not to include the full video in this article. It can be viewed here - WARNING - this video contains footage that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

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