Woman bids for return of dog

Posted: September 19, 2013

The Winchester Star

Tammy LynnFiddler
Alvin, a springer spaniel, was taken by city police on July 9 from a truck in the parking lot of the Walmart in the 2300 block of South Pleasant Valley Road.

WINCHESTER — A Stephens City woman charged with leaving her dog in a hot vehicle in July has filed a civil claim to either get the animal back or be given $25,000 compensation.

According to the court documents, filed Wednesday in Winchester General District Court, Tammy Lynn Fiddler is suing the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke Counties.

Alvin, a springer spaniel, was taken by city police on July 9 from a truck in the parking lot of the Walmart in the 2300 block of South Pleasant Valley Road.

Fiddler, 41, was arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

She is awaiting an Oct. 30 trial, and in the meantime, Alvin is in the care of the SPCA.

At the time of her arrest, Fiddler signed Alvin over to the organization. However, her attorney, Phillip Stone Griffin II, previously said she did so under the threat of being jailed without bond.

The dog, which is estimated to be between 5 and 6 years old, was in distress when police arrived in the Walmart parking lot around 2:30 p.m. July 9, according to city police spokeswoman Lauren Cummings. He was panting heavily and trying to escape from the vehicle.

Officers took him to Valley Emergency Veterinary Clinic, where he was treated for heat exposure.

Cummings said the dog had a temperature of 106.8 degrees when he was rescued, noting that any reading in excess of 103 is dangerous and requires immediate treatment.

The outdoor temperature when the dog was found was 80, but the temperature in the truck was 95, according to a police department news release.

A criminal complaint filed in the case states that Alvin was left in the vehicle for about 30 minutes.

Griffin said Fiddler left her dog in the vehicle while she shopped briefly in the Walmart with her grandson. They had previously visited the nearby Lowe’s store, where he said the animal was allowed in the store with them.

It was originally reported to the news media that the dog did not have any ventilation in the truck, but Griffin disputes that claim. He said the windows had narrow openings to allow air inside and that a rear sliding window was open.

Since the incident, Dr. Maxwell T. Mandel, a veterinarian at Stephens City Animal Hospital, has written a letter recommending the dog be given back to Fiddler.

Griffin said he sent the letter to the SPCA and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Derek Aston confirmed receiving and reviewing the letter, but could not comment further on the active case.

“In the few minutes between the time Mrs. Fiddler left her vehicle and the call was made to police from the citizen, Alvin was already displaying excitable behavior due to his desire to have gone with Mrs. Fiddler,” Mandel states in the letter. “This hyperactivity played a role in his body temperature increase. All papers and photos I reviewed exhibit to me the undeniable fact that there is an important mutual connection between Mrs. Fiddler and Alvin, and that his previous well-being is linked to his life-long bond with Mrs. Fiddler.”

He also states that he sees no indication that Fiddler had ever treated Alvin poorly.

“This one accidental incident aside, my professional opinion is that the best cure for Alvin’s current anxiety and stress issue would be to be reunited with Mrs. Fiddler and returned to his lifelong home,” he wrote.

As far as giving the dog back to Fiddler, SPCA Executive Director Ellen Taylor said Wednesday that the organization is bound by the commonwealth’s attorney and trusts the judicial system.

The hearing on Fiddler’s civil claim has tentatively been set for the same date and time as her criminal trial, at 10 a.m. Oct. 30 in Winchester General District Court.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com