An Escambia County woman convicted of the death of a dog in a hot car in now serving jail time after partially winning an appeal.
Crystal Marie Houk, 38, is serving 30 days in the Escambia County Jail for the 2019 death of her dog Gracie Mae. She will also face 36 months probation along with costs and fines when released.
In March 2021, she was convicted of aggravated animal cruelty and animal cruelty. She remained out of jail while she appealed.
On appeal, Houk’s attorney argued that convictions and sentences for both animal cruelty and aggravated animal cruelty amounted to double jeopardy. The Florida First District Court of Appeal agreed that the dual convictions violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. The appeals court reversed the lessor conviction of animal cruelty and affirmed the greater conviction of aggravated animal cruelty.
On August 22, 2019 — a day described as hot and humid by prosecutors — Houk spent over an hour inside the Walmart in Ensley while her dog Grace Mae was left behind in her car in the parking lot. The windows were closed and the dog did not have any water. Knowing there was a problem with the car’s air conditioner, she left it running with a PVC pipe pressed against the gas pedal to keep the car running.
Store employees were eventually alerted and, upon gaining entry into the vehicle, they discovered the air conditioner was blowing hot air. Gracie was in great distress at that point, panting heavily and trying to catch her breath. She passed away about 15 minutes later.
An animal control officer testified that Gracie died of a heat stroke, and that she suffered.
The dog’s internal temperature was so elevated that the thermometer displayed a reading of “H,” indicating a temperature above 109.9 degrees Fahrenheit.