An employee of the Kemptville, Ontario Walmart was fired after confronting a customer and reporting to police that the man had left his dog inside his vehicle on a hot day.
Carla Cheney was in the parking lot, talking with other employees before her shift began on Tuesday. She noticed a customer walking toward the store had left his dog in his truck. One of the windows was down, and the dog kept jumping out to follow his human. The man put the dog, a furry Newfoundland, back in the truck and rolled up the window, leaving only about an inch open.
“I said, ‘Is this really happening? I’m going to give him about five or ten minutes and then I’m going to call the police,’ ” Carla said.
He did not return within that time, so the pharmacy technician called police. An officer arrived, wrote down the man’s license plate number and entered the store to look for him. When the man returned to his vehicle, he drove by Carla and her coworkers.
“He pulled up to us and said, ‘Hello, ladies, how are you?’ And I said, ‘You shouldn’t leave your dog in the car,’ ” Carla said. “He told me it was none of my business and I said that that was fine, that if I saw him do it again I would just call the police next time. He said he was no longer going to be shopping at that Walmart, and I said, ‘OK.’ ”
Carla was later called in to her manager’s office to explain the incident. This was the second time in two weeks she had spoken with her manager about customers leaving their dogs in hot cars, and the previous time had not gone smoothly.
“I was pretty upset and I said to my manager, ‘What do I do?’ He said it was none of our business and went into the store.”
This time the manager asked Carla to come to him first if there were any problems.
“So I [told him] if I did see something unsafe, that I would just go to the police if I thought it was necessary,” Carla explained. “He told me then that I was terminated, he wanted my vest, my badge, and to clean out my locker and that I needed to leave.”
When she asked why she was being fired, she was told it was for being rude to a customer.
Carla added that earlier in the week, another employee had been chastised for speaking with a customer about leaving their dog in their car. The employee, who had already given a two-week notice, was asked to leave on the spot.
“Now I’m worried that other associates won’t say anything and they’ll be afraid that they’ll lose their job if they do say something,” Carla said. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
Walmart issued a statement claiming they did not fire her for trying to help the dogs:
“The associate in question was absolutely not let go for trying to help a dog in a locked car. The decision to dismiss an associate is one that we take extremely seriously and must follow a comprehensive process. However, out of respect for the associate and for privacy reasons we cannot provide specifics about why this associate was let go.
Walmart is a major supporter and advocate for animal rights. Over the past year alone we have made donations to local SPCAs, the Humane Society and Animal Shelters. In addition, signs will be added to the front of all our stores across the country to advise customers of the dangers of leaving kids and pets in a hot car.
We also have a long standing protocol that directs associates to take appropriate action, and if necessary, notify the authorities if they believe an animal is in distress or at risk. With respect to the recent story about our Kemptville store, as per our protocol, the store manager did speak to the customer in question about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car.”
Since word broke about the story after Carla contacted CBC, she has been flooded with kindness and support.
“My phone has not stopped ringing since the news yesterday,” she said. “I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the support of people, and I just think it’s amazing that people have contacted me and shown their support, and I appreciate it very, very much.”
She has since retained employment lawyer Robert Monti to help her fight what she feels is a great injustice.
“One of my colleagues was in a Shopper’s Drug Mart recently where an animal was left in a car, and an announcement came over the PA system … saying that if you were the owner of such and such car with such and such license plate, get out to your car within the next minute or we’re going to break the window,” Monti said. “So that was a completely different corporate response, and an appropriate one.”
Carla has not been contacted by Walmart since her dismissal.
“I knew something would happen when I contacted CBC, I didn’t expect it to go this far or reach so many people,” she said about the public’s reaction. “It’s great that the story’s out there.”
Carla’s former employer:
Kemptville Supercentre (#1047)
3000 Highway 43 Kemptville ON