With heat-waves across Canada, it feels like I'm seeing news stories every day of a child or dog found in distress, or even dead, in an overheated car. It is wrong for anyone to see this and accept that this is "none of their business" and then move on. Leaving a child or pet in a hot or freezing car can actually be considered child endangerment or animal cruelty, both of which are illegal and punishable by law in Ontario and many other places. Stores like Wal-Mart, that have huge, open parking lots, need to do everything they can to protect pets and children.
Last week, a Walmart in Kemptville, Ontario was in the news over two separate incidents where dogs were left in cars on hot days. It appears that the situations were handled poorly by the store manager who didn't seem to realize how dangerous the situation could have been. One employee was fired after she spoke with a customer telling him not to leave his dog in the car and that she would call the police if she saw him do it again. It's unclear to me exactly what happened, but it is clear to me that Wal-Mart's current policies are not strong enough to make sure that children and pets are protected.
I'm asking Wal-Mart to prove to us, their customers, that they are doing everything possible to make sure pets and children are protected. Currently, they've said they will post signs in parking lots, but people can ignore signs, and I think they can do a lot more.
1) On hot or cold days, Wal-Mart should make regular announcements over the loudspeaker warning customers of these dangers and legal consequences.
2) Most importantly, Wal-Mart needs a strong policy for staff and managers. Wal-Mart has said it has a policy to address this issue, but the staff person fired last week has said she was never told about this policy. Regardless of what Wal-Mart has or has not done in the past, I think they should make their policy publicly available. They should publicly commit to re-train all staff and managers across the country about what the dangers are and what the law is. They need to make sure that when a staff person sees a dangerous situation that they are encouraged to alert authorities themselves, and then follow a documenting and reporting procedure. In some cases, by the time a staff person finds a manager it could be too late.
Wal-Mart markets itself as a family-oriented "all in one stop for all your needs" and has both child and pet sections in their stories. If Wal-Mart cares enough to cater for children and pets, they should care enough to ensure they are safe from harm in Wal-Mart's parking lots. Small children and pets cannot speak for themselves. We all have a moral obligation to discourage these criminal and senseless deaths from happening. Wal-Mart posting signs in some parking lots, as they have done, is a step, but they have the ability to do so much more and set an example for other big chains.
I'm a regular Wal-Mart customer, I've always found their staff helpful and friendly, and as a mom, pet owner and certified foster parent, I really appreciate their low prices! I started this petition because I want to know that I'm shopping at a store that shares my values.
I hope we get enough signatures to make a difference to Wal-Mart. I will be writing them a letter and sending this petition with any signatures in a follow up letter.
***Photo credit: A. Magill via Creative Commons