After Appeal, Woman Now Serving 30 Days For Death Of Dog In Hot Car

June 9, 2021

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.


21 Responses to “After Appeal, Woman Now Serving 30 Days For Death Of Dog In Hot Car”

  1. Forrest G. on June 12th, 2021 1:17 pm

    Momma said “stupid is, as stupid does”!!!!

  2. gmp on June 9th, 2021 11:47 pm

    What she did was pure negligence and I think she should have gotten a harsher punishment. It doesn’t take much for a dog, especially older dogs to overheat. RIP to that poor animal.

  3. John Bodie on June 9th, 2021 5:20 pm

    If she done to a dog, most likely she would do it to a human.

  4. Bill on June 9th, 2021 4:41 pm

    I agree with Mikey. It was an accident.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t love dogs.

    I doubt anyone on here cares for their dog better than I do.

    But still accidents happen.

  5. Rita Jenne-Ryan on June 9th, 2021 3:57 pm

    Why do people take their dogs to the store & leave them in the car while shopping? I love dogs but I think leaving them comfortable in their home or yard is better.

  6. JTV on June 9th, 2021 12:31 pm

    @Taylon, you sir are 100% correct.

  7. Taylon on June 9th, 2021 9:53 am


    Based on that logic if you swap the pet with a child then as long as you “tried” and it wasn’t intentional you can walk free. People go to prison for accidental and/or negligent injuries and deaths all the time. Stupid decisions aren’t an excuse to escape consequences for those stupid decisions.

    When I was in my 20’s I can’t say I didn’t feel the same way as you. I wasn’t an animal lover at that time. it took a long time but in the last two decades my wife converted me and I’ve come to love my pups like toddlers now (and they are always happy to see me come home unlike wife and kids), and I have no use for people that are cruel to animals.

  8. SueB on June 9th, 2021 9:40 am

    @ Mickey you and this woman are so out of it and do not deserve to have any animal. The AC in the car did just start blowing hot air it wasn’t working to begin with. She should have been put out on the road picking up dog poo in hot weather. If she is gets another dog, she should be put in jail for life.

  9. thomas greene on June 9th, 2021 8:30 am


    That is one of the dumbest posts I’ve ever read!

  10. Kristi Mitchell on June 9th, 2021 8:27 am

    Why is there not a judgement that she will never be able to own any pets again?
    That should be the first!

  11. Sherri on June 9th, 2021 8:25 am

    Thirty days is nothing! She should have to spend some major jail time for this! A PVC pipe to keep the car running? That is even crazier. Why not take the dog inside on a leash? I have seen this many times. Better yet. Leave the dog at home. No, it is NOT a waste of tax money or jail time as Mikey stated. Three years probation? She should have more than three years probation. Sadly, this crime is not taken very seriously. Obviously, she was highly aware that she needed to keep the dog cool, but her method of attempting to do so backfired on her. So she did realize the need to keep the dog cool. Shame on her, but she deserves a punishment more stern than what was given to her.

  12. retired on June 9th, 2021 7:28 am

    leaving the car running unattended is also illegal.

    should be in “hot box”’ while in jail, so she knows how it feels

  13. Chris on June 9th, 2021 7:15 am

    If she knew the air wasn’t working properly, seems negligent as heck to me. I’d rather have her in jail than a drug dealer. Then again, I like animals more than people.

  14. Paul on June 9th, 2021 6:51 am

    I wouldn’t even think about leaving my dog in a car.
    I’m just wondering why when a deputy does they don’t get any time.

  15. Niknak50 on June 9th, 2021 6:28 am

    I totally agree with Mikey. Tragic, but jail time and 3 years probation???
    One thing i will never understand though, is why people think they have to take their dogs everywhere they go.

  16. Joni on June 9th, 2021 6:24 am

    @Mikey, whether she tried to keep him from being injured is irrelevant. She still left an innocent dog in a hot car for over an hour. What will it take for people to realize they shouldn’t leave animals unattended in cars, ever?

  17. Animallvr on June 9th, 2021 6:15 am

    If you love your animal so much, why would you ever consider taking them shopping with you at all? You know anything can happen to a vehicle, even someone stealing it! And anyone knows you can’t get in and out of Walmart that quick anymore! No excuse!

  18. Justice on June 9th, 2021 5:04 am

    She should been sentenced to more jail time.

  19. Richard Wayne on June 9th, 2021 5:02 am


  20. Richard Wayne on June 9th, 2021 5:01 am


  21. Mikey on June 9th, 2021 12:36 am

    This seems absurd. Granted, this woman was extremely stupid. But, she tried to keep the dog from being injured and did not inflict intentional cruelty on the animal. Hardly seems deserving of jail time and a waste of tax money.

Have a comment on this story?

We welcome your comments on this story, but there are some rules to follow::

(1) Be Nice. No comments that slander another, no racism, no sexism, no personal attacks.

(2) No Harrassing Comments. If someone says something bad about you, don't respond. That's childish.

(3) No Libel. That's saying something is not true about someone. Don't do it.

(4) Keep it clean. Nothing vulgar, obscene or sexually related. No profanity or obvious substitutions. Period.

(5) reserves the right to remove any comments that violate our rules or we think to be inappropriate. We are not responsible for what is posted. Comments may not appear right away until they are approved by a moderator.

(6) Limit your comments to the subject in this story only, and limit comments to 300 words or less. Do not post copyrighted material. Comments will not be added to stories that are over 30 days old.

(7) No posts may advertise a commercial business or political group, or link to another commercial web site or political site of any kind.