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Updated: RCMP confirm all six missing dogs died of heat stroke

A memorial to the six dogs has been installed at the off-leash dog park in Brookswood.  - Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
A memorial to the six dogs has been installed at the off-leash dog park in Brookswood.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson/Langley Times

“This is truly such a dreadful thing, it is beyond belief,” said Carol Marner after learning that her daughter Colleen King’s dog, Teemo, was one of the six dogs which apparently died of heat exhaustion, while inside a dog walker’s parked truck in Richmond last Tuesday.

Marner said the bouvier was a big part of the family’s life and everyone is just heartbroken. What makes the story worse is the dogs’ owners  had been fed a lie and given hope that their dogs were taken by someone and could still be alive, said Marner.

“I walked into Colleen’s house last night and there was no Teemo there nuzzling me,” Marner said. “Teemo loved children and my granddaughter is just so upset.”

A memorial for the “Brookswood Six” is growing at the Langley dog park.

It was the site at the centre of the tragic lie, which apparently was concocted to cover up the deaths of the dogs due to heat stroke, while in the back of Emma Paulsen’s truck. There are allegations Paulsen was riding her horse at the time.

Marner said her family has now heard that the dog walker would often bring the dogs to the stable where she boarded a horse. She alleges that there is some belief the dog walker would leave the dogs in her truck, and go ride her horse or clean out the barn.

“We have heard she was even spoken to about how wrong that was to do, by people at the barn, but nothing changed.”

Langley RCMP would not comment on whether that is something they are looking into.

Mounties confirm the dogs were found in a ditch in Abbotsford. After the dog walker spoke to officers on Monday, the dogs’ bodies were retrieved by the Abbotsford Police. Among the dead is the dog walker’s own border collie, Salty.

All of the dogs and the dog walker are from the Tsawwassen/Ladner area.

On May 13 Paulsen (pictured at left) called police to say that she had taken the dogs to play at the popular off-leash park in Langley. She claimed she put them all back in the truck, closed the canopy and went to use the park washroom.

When she returned 10 minutes later, she told police the canopy was open and the dogs were gone.

It was two hours before she called police or the dogs’ owners.

There was no sign of a pack of dogs running around, and no witnesses to the crime.

Her speculation to police was that they were stolen. However, many, including Pet Searchers Canada’s Al MacLellan found the dog walker’s story very unusual and “logistically challenging.”

According to the Weather Network, temperatures  that day were in the mid-20s.

The bodies of the dogs were recovered from the ditch and have since been transferred by the SPCA to a lab, where necropsies are being performed.

The investigation has been turned over to the SPCA.

“We will be looking for forensic evidence of the cause of deaths and the time line of their deaths,” said Marcie Moriarty, manager of cruelty investigations.

The results of the necropsies could take a week.

“If there is evidence the animals died of distress we could recommend criminal charges be looked at and it would be up to Crown to lay those charges of animal cruelty,” said Moriarty.

But there are still some mysteries about this case.

“Temperatures in a vehicle can rise within minutes but here we have six dogs, all different breeds and ages, levels of health are different and yet they all died,” she said.

“It is more likely these dogs were left for much more than 10 minutes. It breaks my heart.”

On Monday night, Langley RCMP confirmed that they could be looking at charging Paulsen with public mischief. But cruelty charges could be recommended by the SPCA.

A request for Paulsen to be banned from owning or being around pets could also be considered.

“If the investigation demonstrates the dogs suffered because of the dog walker’s actions, we would be in favour of  some type of ban on owning animals,” said Moriarty.

MacLellan, who was hired initially to find the missing dogs, claims he got the dog walker to confess to the ruse. He asked that she go to the police.

He went public with what happened to the dogs on his website on Mon day afternoon.

On the pet detective’s website, MacLellan said Paulsen told him that she left the six large dogs in the back of her truck with the canopy closed but with vent windows open and some water. Apparently, all the dogs succumbed to heat stroke.

She said she panicked and said the dogs were taken.

On his website post, McLellan said he asked Paulsen to come clean when her story just didn’t add up.

She broke down and told him she had been under stress and has been without her anxiety medication.

She promised MacLellan she would go to police.

She was questioned and released by Langley Mounties on Monday.

Colleen and Lyndon King, whose dog Teemo was found dead, said the Delta woman walked their dog for the past two years and came with good references.

“Things were really good for a long time and lately it has gone down hill,” said Marner.

She used to take the dogs for swims. But some days Teemo would come back dry and want to use the bathroom right away. He would just lie on the grass and not move, looking exhausted.

“Now, we wonder, was he suffering from heat exhaustion?” said Marner.

Red flags went off right away when they heard Teemo went missing.  Nothing added up.

“Why would you drive all the way to Langley to take the dogs to a park there, with gas prices the way they are, too?” said Marner.

“My son-in-law received a call from people who were at the Langley park that day and said there had not been any pack of six dogs there, nor the truck. She lied to everyone.”

Marner hopes Paulsen is banned from owning or being around animals for life.

The nature of how the dogs died will be very hard to get over, she said.

It is a tragic reminder of how easy it is for dogs to die from heat stroke while in cars.

“We say it is 10 minutes to disaster,” said Moriarty.

“A vehicle can heat up very fast and if you feel hot in a vehicle, imagine being a dog with a fur coat and no way to cool down.”

Among the dogs that died are Buddy, a Boston terrier, Oscar, a rescue Husky, rottweiler cross, Molly, a blue heeler cross, Mia, a young pitbull and Salty, a border collie.

An online petition has been started at www.thepetitionsite.com in light of the dogs deaths and within two days, more than 3,400 people have signed it.

The petition asks the Canadian government to make animal cruelty a severe indictable offense under the Criminal Code.

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