TWELVE dogs being transported to a show in Italy by a professional handler have died in the vehicle while it was parked outside a hotel.

Fabrizio Manni had completed the six-hour drive from his home to Rende, and had checked the dogs twice, exercising them and replenishing their water. He returned three hours later and found all but two had died, including his own Whippet. Of the two still alive, one died later.

Mr Manni and his daughter left his home in Teverina at 10am on Friday delaying his start to allow them to exercise so he would not have to stop en route; there were roadworks which, he said, made it difficult to do so in addition to a lack of suitable spots.

He reached the hotel at 4.15pm where he met some friends and let the dogs out of the vehicle. He changed their water, reloaded the vehicle and looked for a space to park it at the hotel.

“I found a cool place almost in front of my room,” he said in a statement on Facebook. “We checked in, put our bags in the room and went down to take the French Bulldog from the van and put him in the room, due to the breed’s breathing problems.

“That was the last time I saw the dogs alive and in perfect health.”

In his room, he said, he received a call from someone who wanted him to have a look at his dog, and arranged to meet him in the car park at 6.15pm

“We did so and he had parked his car next to my truck,” Mr Manni said. “We talked for about 20 minutes about 50 meters from the van under the eyes of all.

“Neither I nor the many people who were in the parking lot noticed anything strange. Some people I know well were half a metre from my truck and they did not hear or notice anything.”

But after dinner, at 7.50pm, he opened the vehicle and found that all but two of the dogs had died and the other two – a Bedlington Terrier and a Weimaraner – were having breathing difficulties.

Put to sleep

“I immediately asked the staff at the front desk to call the police,” Mr Manni said. “They said that without a health authority request they could not intervene.

“We called three different vets but no one was available to come.”

Then he said he remembered that a judge who is also a vet, Dr Ferdinand Asnaghi, was to be at the show. He phoned him and he arrived quickly. The Weimaraner was taken to the vets but had to be put to sleep.

Mr Manni said the water containers in the truck were still full and that subsequent tests showed a loss of blood from the mouth which, he said, did not suggest heatstroke or suffocation. He added that although it was 27 degrees Celsius that evening, the ventilation system was working correctly.

He began to contact the dogs’ owners to tell them what had happened, and the following morning gave a statement to the authorities. Post-mortem examinations on ten of the dogs were due to take place. Blood taken from the dogs showed they may have eaten something poisonous, he said, and that they were not the victims of heatstroke. The air conditioning in the truck had been working, he said. A police investigation is continuing.

He said he had decided to ‘make public’ what happened out of respect for the dogs’ owners and for all those who had supported him.

Mr Manni said he was doing all he could to help the authorities.

“I send my condolences to all the owners of the dogs who died,” he said.

He told DOG WORLD he was unable to comment further at this stage.