Preventing Injury and Death to Pets in Parked Vehicles
Sec. 1. Purpose
Every year, hundreds of pets will tragically lose their lives when their owners leave them alone in parked vehicles in extreme temperatures. Many pet owners are unaware that even on a temperate day, the inside of a parked vehicle can reach the temperature of an oven within minutes, causing severe dehydration and even resulting in an animalâ€™s death. Conditions can be equally dangerous to animals on cold winter days. Enacting legislation to directly combat this issue will spread awareness to pet owners and save hundreds of companion animal lives each year.
Sec. 2. Definitions
For the purposes of this Act:
(a) "Extreme cold" means an extremely cold temperature, inside or outside of a vehicle, that could endanger an animal's health or well-being.
(b) "Extreme heat" means a high temperature, inside or outside of a vehicle, that could endanger an animal's health or well-being.
(c) "Person" means an individual, partnership, corporation, association, governmental entity, or other legal entity.
(d) "Unattended vehicle" means a vehicle that is out of sight of the owner or operator.
(e) "Vehicle" means a car, truck, camper or other form of transportation in which an animal can be transported.
Sec. 3. Provision
(a) A person shall not confine an animal in an unattended vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health and well-being of the animal due to conditions that include, but are not limited to, extreme heat, extreme cold or lack of ventilation.
(b) After making reasonable efforts to locate the vehicle's owner, an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter may enter a vehicle by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal who is endangered by confinement in a vehicle. A law enforcement officer, animal control officer or fire fighter may enter the vehicle for the sole purpose of assisting the animal and may not search the vehicle or seize items found in the vehicle unless otherwise permitted by law.
(c) An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal under this section shall:
- Leave written notice in a secure and conspicuous location on or in the vehicle bearing the officer's or fire fighter's name, title and the address of the location where the animal may be retrieved; and
- Take the animal to a veterinary hospital or animal clinic for a health screening and treatment.
(d) A law enforcement officer, animal control officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal from a vehicle under this subsection (b) is immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.
(e) After making reasonable efforts to locate the vehicleâ€™s owner, a person not authorized under subsection (b) may enter a vehicle using reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal; provided, however, that the person:
- Determines that there are no reasonable means of egress for the animal from the vehicle;
- Has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry into to the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal;
- Attempts to contact a law enforcement officer who can immediately act to retrieve the animal;
- Shall not use more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle and remove the animal; and
- Remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.
(f) A person who removes an animal from a vehicle pursuant to subsection (e) is immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.
Sec. 4. Penalties
(a) A violation of section 3 shall be punished by a fine of not more than $150 for a first offense, by a fine of not more than $300 for a second offense and by a fine of not more than $500 for a third or subsequent offense.
(b) The owner may retrieve the animal removed by law enforcement only after payment of all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal.
No matter what the temperature outside, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, 30 degrees in 20 minutes and over 40 degrees in an hour. This means that on a 70-degree day, the inside of a parked car can reach 114 degrees very quickly.Â On a hot summer day when the temperatures range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car can quickly climb to between 130 degrees and 172 degrees.
Rolling down the windows of a vehicle has little to no effect on the internal temperature of a car. Many pet owners are not aware of this fact and leave their pets unattended for what they think are just a few short minutes. Meanwhile, cats and dogs are extremely vulnerable to heatstroke, which can cause organ failure and death.
Twenty-two states have now adopted "hot car" laws to protect companion animals from hazardous weather conditions. However, the laws vary greatly from state to state.Â Fewer than half a dozen states have "Good Samaritan" laws that allow any citizen to remove a pet from a car under certain dangerous circumstances, though most states that have adopted "hot car" laws allow law enforcement to legally break into a car to rescue an animal in danger.
While the penalties for leaving a companion animal in a vehicle in hot or cold weather are fairly small, the passage of legislation making this a crime helps to educate the public about the issue, while offering law enforcement officers and members of the public a clear path for action in saving the life of an animal alone in a car. Without these clear provisions of law, many people are afraid to act and it may be too late for someone's pet.