THE owner of an animal grooming salon yesterday claimed an "unconscious" mistake led to him putting a customer's dog into the boot of his car and it later died of heatstroke complications.
Mr Wong Seow Huar, 64, said he had meant to put a child seat in the back of his BMW but accidentally picked up the three-year-old maltese, called Brownie, in its pet carrier instead.
He was taking it on Tuesday from its owner's home in Ang Mo Kio to be groomed at his Serangoon Road salon and was clearing the car's back seat, in which sat a shih tzu, when his phone rang.
Mr Wong put Brownie's carrier on the ground to take the call and that, he claimed, was his last memory of the animal for almost six hours. When the call ended, he noticed that the carrier was missing. "I thought that someone had stolen the dog while I was on the phone," he told The Straits Times.
Stricken with panic, he started searching the neighbourhood. "I didn't think of checking the boot because no one would put a dog there," he said.
He informed Brownie's owner, Madam Santha Kumari, that he had lost it. The housewife, in her mid-50s, called to tell her eldest son, Mr Kalai Selvam, before searching for the dog. Mr Kalai, a technician, joined them later.
At 4pm, more than two hours after collecting Brownie, Mr Wong left to take the shih tzu to his salon and made a police report about the missing dog.
Two hours later, Mr Kalai and his fiancee, Ms Sangeetha Appaboo, 26, showed up at the salon.
Mr Wong said: "I promised them I would head over to their place to help them with their search. I wanted to put up pictures and give out fliers."
After work, he went to Mr Kalai's home and that was when he found the dog in his boot covered in sweat. He rushed Brownie to a nearby clinic, but staff there referred him to Acacia Veterinary Clinic.
As Mr Wong made his way to the vet clinic carrying the dog, Mr Kalai's family saw them.
"I couldn't recognise my own dog because she was so limp and wet," said Mr Kalai, who went to the clinic with seven relatives just after 9pm.
The vet told Mr Kalai that Brownie's temperature was high and it had to be put on a drip and given oxygen. The vet suggested that it be moved to a veterinary hospital with better facilities.
Mr Selvam took Brownie to Mount Pleasant Veterinary Centre. But the dog died 10 minutes after arriving. Its furious owners scolded Mr Wong.
The salon owner has given a statement to the Agri- Food & Veterinary Authority and is seeking an out-of-court settlement over the incident.
He said: "The whole time, I stayed with the family to help in whatever way I could. I'm really sorry it happened. It is my fault."