Golfing Man Sentenced to Jail for Leaving Dog in Hot Car: Death by Heat Exhaustion

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) – A Fort Collins man has been ordered by a judge to serve two months in jail for leaving his German Shepherd mix inside his car while he played 18 holes of golf on the 4th of July last year. In addition to the jail time, 31-year-old Michael Reynolds was sentenced to two years of probation, 100 hours of useful public service, monitored sobriety, a dog ownership class, court fines and fees, and is prohibited from owning a dog for two years.

However, Reynolds’s defense attorney immediately filed an emergency motion to appeal the sentence, and all terms of the sentence will remain suspended until the appeal is resolved. Judge Jennifer Lynn Melton imposed a $50,000 appellate bond which was paid, gaining Reynold’s release from jail.

According to the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Reynolds drove to the Foothills Golf Course in Littleton and planned to keep “Keef” in the car with a bowl of water and the windows rolled down. Passersby began to notice the animal in distress at 11:45 a.m., and attempts to save the dog were unsuccessful despite the effort of bystanders.

Reynolds returned to his car at 1 p.m. and was “extremely distraught” when told of the dog’s passing. The district attorney’s office pursued a misdemeanor count of animal cruelty against Reynolds after a necropsy proved the dog died of heat exhaustion. Reynolds pleaded guilty to the charge.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, an animal control officer testified that the temperature inside the car could have exceeded 130 degrees. Judge Melton defined Reynolds’s actions as reckless, stating that leaving a dog in a car for several hours while drinking beer and golfing is unacceptable and deserving of a jail sentence.

No charges were brought against the person who broke the car’s window. The Colorado legislature enacted a law in 2017 eliminating financial liability against people who break a window in order to rescue a child or pet inside a hot car — provided they try to contact the vehicle’s owner and 9-1-1 first.

The shattered window of a car that an unresponsive German Shepherd was pulled from July 4, 2023, after outside temperatures reached 80 degrees while its owner allegedly played a round of golf.

Reynolds, who pleaded guilty to the charge, was sentenced by Jefferson County Court Judge Jennifer Lynn Melton to two months in jail for the incident that led to the death of his dog, “Keef.” The judge also imposed a two-year probation period, useful public service, monitored sobriety, a dog ownership class, and court fines and fees. Reynolds is not allowed to own a dog for two years.