Cristal Perez is a 23-year-old waitress at a New Jersey eatery called Longhorn Steakhouse — at least, she was until last week. That’s when Perez, who lives in Mays Landing, New Jersey, about 20 miles from the Millville restaurant where she was employed, saw a dog locked inside a car in the parking lot on a hot day — and she told the couple who owned the dog exactly what she thought about it.
According to what Perez told the Press of Atlantic City newspaper, she wasn’t the only person in the steakhouse worried about the dog. She says that another couple called the police to report the possibly distressed animal.
So what did she say to the dog-owning diners? She simply told them, she says, that it was “wrong” to confine a dog inside a car for an hour on a hot day, and for good measure, added that the couple “was lucky to be leaving before the cops came.”
The high temperature that afternoon, April 11, was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with a “heat index” of 90. But according to one data provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, temperatures inside a locked vehicle will skyrocket as high as 120 degrees within minutes, even when the temperature outside is as low as 78.
The diners, it appears, took exception to the young server’s remarks and griped to the restaurant’s management — who promptly sent Cristal Perez home, first on a four-day suspension, followed by a quick pink slip.
The restaurant claims that it was following its own policies in giving Perez the axe — policies that she willfully violated.
“The decision to terminate the employment of this team member had nothing to do with her concern for the dog, which our management team confirmed was unfounded,” said Longhorn Spokesperson Hunter Robinson. “She was terminated for mistreating our guests.”
Robinson claimed that the air conditioning in the car was on and that the dog inside “was never in any danger,” and the police did not bother to show up.
That’s not what Perez saw when she observed the dog inside the car.
“He was pretty active,” said Perez, who added that she is not even a dog enthusiast. “He was panting pretty heavily. It looked like he was having an anxiety attack.”
A PETA official said his organization backs Perez in the dispute.
“In any situation that has a compassionate citizen doing something to help an animal, most people would be rewarded and not get a pink slip,” said Dan Carron of PETA. “Those people should be looked at as heroes and not lose their jobs.”
Just three weeks ago, Hollywood actress Jennifer Beals of Flashdance and The L Word fame was confronted by passers-by who saw that she had left her German Shepherd inside a hot car in Vancouver, Canada. Beals claimed that she had rolled down her windows and would never do anything to endanger her dog.
Cristal Perez says she has no regrets, and she admitted to her bosses that her comments apparently disturbed the diners.
“I would have apologized, but I’m not sorry,” she said.
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