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Should Walmart have fired worker for confronting customer who left dog in hot car?

The efforts of a Walmart employee to prevent a customer from leaving his dog inside a truck on a hot day this week has resulted in her getting fired.

Former Walmart employee Carla Cheney told CBC News that she hadn't started her shift at a Walmart in Kemptville, Ont., when she spotted a customer leaving his dog inside a parked truck in the store's parking lot.

Presumably because the temperature hovered in the high twenties that day, the man left the truck windows fully open and the dog jumped out twice to follow him.

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The unnamed customer's solution: put the dog back inside the truck and roll up the windows, leaving them open an inch, by Cheney's estimate. Then the man strolled into the Walmart to do a little shopping.

Cheney said she was aghast at the man's thoughtlessness. "I said, 'Is this really happening? I'm going to give him about five or 10 minutes and then I'm going to call the police."

Another bystander also noticed and took down the truck's licence plate number before heading into the store, said Cheney, so she decided not to call the police.

Shortly after, the man left the Walmart and got back into his truck. Before leaving the parking lot, he pulled up alongside an outside table where Cheney was sitting with her work colleagues.

"He pulled up to us and said, 'Hello, ladies, how are you?' And I said, 'You shouldn't leave your dog in the car.' 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'."

The worst was yet to come for Cheney, herself the proud owner of a precocious chihuahua named Chico.

Later that day, she was called into the office of her manager, whom she had spoken to a week before about a different dog being abandoned in a hot car. On that occasion, the manager told her there was nothing she could do about it.

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Cheney says she told her manager about the dog in the truck and he instructed her to come to him with any problems in the future. Cheney told him she wouldn't do that.

"So I [told him] if I did see something unsafe that I would just go to the police if I thought it was necessary," Cheney said .

Then the real shocker: "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."

The cause cited for her dismissal: "[The manager said I was fired] because I was rude to a customer, but I felt because I was not even on the clock, it shouldn't have been an issue anyways. And I don't think it should be an issue even if I was on the clock … because it's on the news and we're being told not to leave animals and children in cars.

Cheney claims another former Walmart employee was reprimanded last week for confronting a customer about leaving a dog inside a vehicle. According to Cheney, that staffer had already given his two weeks' notice, but the manager sent him home and told him he'd be paid for the rest of the two weeks.

"I thought I was doing the right thing," said Cheney. "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."

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Walmart Canada declined to comment specifically on the incident in an emailed statement but insists that the retail chain has guidelines that cover situations like the one Cheney faced and is reviewing them with staff in Kemptville and across the country.

"We require our associates to follow these guidelines, which include reporting any safety concerns to a member of management, and engaging customers in a manner that is respectful," said spokesperson Felicia Fefer in the email statement.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled "Animal Rights for Kemptville Wal-mart," had soared to more than 2,100 members as of Wednesday evening, little more than 24 hours after Cheney was fired.

The short version of the story: Cheney was dismissed from her job for following her humanitarian instincts.

Whether you're a pet owner or not, would you report a dog being locked in a hot car at the risk of losing your job?

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