New law with more teeth will help protect pets

It is the rare pet owner who purposefully sets out to harm his or her animal.

Those who choose to take on the work and commitment necessary to care for a dog, cat, bird, fish or lizard often have the best intentions. However, even those who mean well can make mistakes they could regret.

Local animal control officers have seen time and again people who are generally responsible pet owners leave their dogs unsupervised inside a parked vehicle on a hot day. As detailed in an article in today’s Post-Record, when it is 85 degrees outside the temperature inside a car, even with the windows left open, can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 in one hour. Prolonged exposure could cause an animal’s injury or death.

Current regulations say that for an officer to enter a vehicle the dog must be in severe distress. However, a new law will be implemented later this month that gives animal control officers more power to help an animal that is endangered.

The updated rules make leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle or enclosed space, where it could suffer due to excessive heat or cold, a class 2 civil infraction. More importantly, it also allows law enforcement to enter that vehicle or enclosed space if he or she believes the animal is in danger. Agencies would not be liable for any property damage incurred while officers are trying to rescue the animal. This new law has the real potential to save pets from injury or death.

This new law is a step in the right direction, but pet owners also need to become more educated about the dangers associated with leaving an animal in a hot vehicle, and simply make the decision to leave their pets at home.