Dog handler charged with animal cruelty in dogs' deaths

The handler of seven show dogs who died last month after being left in a hot van has been charged with eight counts of animal cruelty, authorities said.

Mary Wild, the handler, is free on $2,500 bond, said Jefferson County Prosecutor Forrest Wegge.

Police said Wild left eight show dogs overnight in a hot van after returning from a dog show in Iowa. Just one, a Siberian Husky, survived. Authorities said the temperature in the van could have reached 120 degrees.

Wild, 24, had been hired by owners to present the dogs at a dog show in Iowa. When she returned to Arnold about 1 a.m. on June 22, she left eight dogs in the van and went inside to sleep.

Seven of the eight dogs died of apparent heat stroke. The eighth dog, a Husky named Cinder, recovered and went home last week.

All eight dogs were big purebreds, some with thick coats. They included a malamute, a Dalmatian, three golden retrievers and an akita.

Past efforts to reach Wild have failed.

Wild could lose privileges with the American Kennel Club if convicted. . She would not be allowed to take part in AKC-sanctioned dog shows or register purebred dogs with the AKC, said Daisy Okas, assistant vice president of communications for the American Kennel Club.

If Wild were convicted of animal cruelty or neglect in Jefferson County court, an American Kennel Club committee would determine its own penalty, which could be up to a 15-year suspension or a $3,000 fine. Okas pointed out that Wild is not an AKC registered handler. That could mean that Wild either never applied or did not meet the requirements, including a certain number of years' experience.

Wild told investigators that the garage was too hot to leave the dogs, so she left them in their kennels in the van and parked the van next to the driveway under a tree. Wild told police she left the van's door and windows open and had six fans operating to keep the dogs cool. She told investigators she checked on them at 4 a.m., and they were fine. Then, about 6:30 a.m., she checked on them again and found five of the eight to be unresponsive.

After trying to revive them on her own, Wild drove the dogs in the van to Ivan's veterinary clinic in House Spring. Wild's mother is in the dog-show business as well and has been a client of Ivan's clinic for about 15 years.

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune