Now that the temperatures are climbing, we wanted to emphasize how important it is to be aware of the dangers of leaving your pets in a locked car, and the consequences you as an owner can suffer by doing so!
“In many states there are no hard-and-fast rules on the legality of leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle, although offenders can (and frequently do) face animal cruelty charges. But 16 pawsome states do have specific “hot car” laws! The Animal Legal & Historical Center reports that these pupactive states have statutes that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle.”
So in California, what is the law regarding leaving a dog in the car?
Answer (provided by Santa Cruz Police Department):
This is a great question, as we all care about our animals and want to ensure their safety. When these types of calls are received by the Sheriff’s Office, we conduct our initial investigation, but often times request the assistance of Animal Services for guidance.
The State of California Penal Code 597.7 states, “No person shall leave an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food and water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”
This code does not explicitly provide a temperature that is too hot for an animal to be left in a vehicle. Officers will remove an animal from a vehicle when the temperature inside the vehicle is 90 degrees or above, and the animal is exhibiting signs of lethargy, sickness or excessive panting. We use a reptile cage thermometer to measure the temperature.
Owners often think that leaving an animal in a car for “just a minute” while they run an errand is safe. This is not true. Even cars that are parked in the shade with windows down leave an animal vulnerable to serious illness or death. I have personally seen vehicles parked in the shade with windows down, but due to no ventilation the temperature in the car was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the dog was suffering and had to receive immediate veterinary care.
While the law covers all animals, dogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness because they can only cool off by panting and through the pads in their feet. Dogs can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.
- Take down the car’s make, model and license plate number.
- If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
- If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive. In several states good Samaritans can legally remove animals from cars under certain circumstances, so be sure to know the laws in your area and follow any steps required.