Keep in mind that the temperature may be 70 degrees outside, but inside a closed vehicle, the temperature can soar up to 90 degrees in just 10 minutes. Each minute that passes means increased danger for pets who can become overheated and suffer from heat stroke in a matter of minutes. Untreated, he can go into cardiac arrest and die. Cars heat up more than you think even if it's overcast outside. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, agitation, vomiting, weakness and collapse.
And, what are your legal rights to step in and rescue this pet? It depends on which state you live.
According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center, legislators in 26 states have enacted laws to protect animals left unattended in parked vehicles. These laws allow for people to rescue these dogs, cats and other animals who are distressed due to, but not limited to hot temperatures.
These states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The provisions of the law in each of these states vary as to what rescuers can legally do. Many require the rescuer to first call 911 or contact local law enforcement before breaking the window to retrieve a distressed pet. Rescuers must remain on the scene with the pet until law enforcement or a first responder arrives. So do the degree of criminal charges. They can range from a warning and a $100 fine for first conviction to a class 1 misdemeanor, fines up to $2,000 and imprisonment up to 1 year.
States currently with no laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming plus Washington, D.C.
For updates, please go to Animal Legal and Historical Center site. Click on this link:
Bottom line: It is illegal in all 50 states to commit animal cruelty, neglect, endangerment and abuse. Experts say whether or not you jump in to rescue a hot pet out of an unattended vehicle is your decision. They suggest that you:
- Make every reasonable effort possible to locate the pet's owner.
- Call local police and animal control and report the incident. Provide the precise location, vehicle model and license plate.
- If the pet is in imminent danger and help has not yet arrived, it is your call as to whether or not to smash the window to rescue the animal trapped inside.
- Remain with the pet until help arrives.
Many of us would happily face criminal charges, fines, and possible jail time if it meant saving the life of a cat, dog or other companion animal.
By Sarah Zumhofe