A Panama City Beach, Florida man appeared in court earlier this week, days after he allegedly left three small dogs behind in his wife’s van while he was getting intoxicated at a nearby condominium complex.
According to the Panama City News Herald, 39-year-old Jason Matthew Reece was arrested Sunday night and a second time on Wednesday, and separately charged with disorderly conduct and animal cruelty resulting in death. The former charge was in relation to an incident that reportedly occurred last Saturday, June 2, while the latter was in connection to Reece making no mention of leaving his dogs behind in the vehicle he was using. Reece appeared in court on Wednesday to face the charges and is presently held at the Bay County Jail on a bond of $10,000 for both charges.
“At no time did Reece tell deputies he had left his vehicle nearly a half mile away parked in front of a Dollar General Store. Reece also did not inform the deputy he had left three small dogs locked inside the vehicle,” the Bay County Sheriff’s Office noted in a police report.
Police reports also suggest that Jason Reece was arrested on Sunday, June 3, after deputies responded to complaints about a man who was drunkenly pulling on the handles of vehicles parked outside a condominium complex. The Florida man reportedly told deputies that he thought he was trying to open a friend’s vehicle, also claiming that he originally hailed from Tennessee. He was then arrested and jailed for disorderly conduct after he wasn’t able to name anybody from the Panama City Beach area.
Days after his arrest, Reece’s wife got in touch with BCSO officials, concerned that her van was missing, and that there were three dogs inside it. She was then informed that her husband was arrested, but did not make any mention about driving his wife’s van or leaving any animals behind in the vehicle.
Sheriff's deputies arrested 39-year-old Jason Reece Sunday for disorderly conduct, but what he didn't tell deputies at the time of his arrest was he left his vehicle nearly half a mile away with three small dogs inside. https://t.co/XFrklgElVb
— WECP-TV (@WECPTV) June 7, 2018
When pressed for details, Reece allegedly said he wasn’t sure where he parked the van. Officers then searched the area where the Florida man was arrested and eventually found his wife’s van parked outside a Dollar General store, with all three dogs inside their kennels. Two of the dogs had already died at the time they were discovered, but the third was still alive. The living and dead dogs were then surrendered to Animal Control, as Reece faced animal cruelty charges for allegedly leaving the animals inside the van.
Although Jason Reece was conditionally freed on Wednesday morning on the disorderly conduct charge, authorities arrested him a second time after he called from a Southport, Florida establishment, allegedly telling officers that he was in “mental distress” after being scolded by his wife. When questioned by officers prior to this second arrest, Reece reportedly said that he knew he was driving his wife’s van and that there were animals inside, adding that the dogs might have died because he did not act in a timely manner.
According to One Green Planet, hot car deaths are a common occurrence in the summer months, as thousands of animals are found dead each year after succumbing to heatstrokes or suffocating inside the hot vehicles. As temperatures can easily spike by up to 30 degrees Fahrenheit in less than a half hour, even “quick errands” could be fatal for animals left unattended inside hot cars.