Dog sitters sued for $1M after pet dies

A New York City couple is suing a dog sitting service for $1 million, claiming the sitter let their pet, Percy the French bulldog, overheat in a van and then dropped him off to die alone in their Manhattan apartment.

Bankers Robert Hardon and Laura Garner left 5-year-old Percy with Doggie Love of Queens for one night in July 2009. The lawsuit says a sitter drove the pooch from Astoria to the West End apartment in the back of an enclosed Econoline van and dropped him off in the empty apartment. Percy was found dead hours later in front of an air conditioner. When vets examined Percy that night they found that his body temperature was high and that he had suffered seizures.

The pet sitters told the New York Post that the company expects to be cleared in the case and that the worker no longer is employed at the agency.

"Although the death of this dog is tragic, without an necropsy, the ultimate cause of death cannot be determined. We are confident that once Doggie Love has the opportunity to defend itself in court, it will be fully vindicated," says the company's lawyer in a statement.

French bulldogs are known for their breathing issues because of their flat faces as well as being prone to heat stroke, says Dog Breed Info Center. Because of it's small size, the French bulldog is well-suited for apartment life, making it a desirable dog for city dwellers.

Short-faced dogs like bulldogs and pugs are at higher risk for overheating because they can't dissipate heat as well through panting, says Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences at Kansas State University. When a dog's body temperature gets too high, its organs start to shut down which could lead to death.

Some symptoms that a dog is in heat stress include vomiting, diarrhea, dry gums and appearing uncoordinated. Nelson recommends getting the dog into air condition or the shade and wet it down with cool water. Putting a fan in front of the animal will help it cool off faster.

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