Summer approaches! And with it, the hurry-up-and-have-fun approach to life. We have barbeques. Go to beaches. Play in the sun. In between fun time, we run errands. And when we run errands, we leave our pets in the car.
CIVIL INFRACTIONS & CRIMINAL CHARGES.
Washington state law makes it a civil infraction to leave any animal alone in a car. The law also applies to any other enclosed space, if they could be killed by excessive heat, excessive cold, lack of ventilation or lack of water. This civil infraction comes with a maximum fine of $125.
It is also possible to get slapped with an animal cruelty charge, depending on the severity of the situation, and other circumstances. In Washington, you can be convicted of animal cruelty if you don’t provide needed shelter, sanitation, space, or vet treatment. The law applies if you acted recklessly, purposefully, or with criminal negligence, and only if the animal suffers unjustified pain as a result.
HOW HOT CAN A CAR GET?
According to a 2005 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, outside temperatures of around 70 degrees can heat the inside of a car to over 115 degrees within minutes.
Dogs experience heat exhaustion when their body temperature hits 103 degrees, according to pet food company Hill’s Pet Nutrition. It’s typically safe to leave your dog in the car for no more than five minutes when the outside temperature is above freezing and below 70 degrees.
RESCUING PETS FROM HOT OR COLD CARS.
If you see a dog or pet in obvious distress inside a car, what can you do to help? Wherever you live, you should try to contact local animal control authorities or law enforcement. Authorities may be able to track down and contact the car owner. Many states also allow officers or emergency responders to use force, if needed, to save endangered animals.
CAN YOU BREAK A CAR WINDOW?
Some states have Good Samaritan laws that protect a rescuer from criminal or civil liability for breaking into a locked car to rescue an animal. But in order to be protected, rescuers must take certain steps—including calling 911 or law enforcement first. And usually, their actions—such as breaking a window—must be absolutely necessary or used only as a last resort. In states that don’t have Good Samaritan laws, the rescuer could face legal repercussions for their actions.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Animal Cruelty or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.