HARRISBURG (May 11, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman’s legislation to prohibit leaving a dog or a cat in a hot vehicle was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“There are too many stories of dogs succumbing to the heat because they were left in cars on warm, summer days,” Dinniman said. “This legislation aims to prevent such inhumane treatment while empowering law enforcement and public safety officials to rescue dogs from danger in such situations.

“As the temperatures begin to rise with the approach of summer, I want to remind all pet owners that dogs and cats can’t regulate their body temperatures like we do and are much more susceptible to the heat – especially when left in a car where temperatures can rise quickly,” he added.

Senate Bill 636, the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, makes it a summary offense (punishable by fine of up to $300) to confine a dog or cat in a vehicle under conditions that jeopardize the animal’s health.

The bill also gives police officers, humane officers or other public safety professionals the authority to remove the dog or cat from the unattended motor vehicle if they believe the dog or cat is suffering and is in danger after a reasonable search for the owner or operator of the vehicle. The animal must then be taken to a veterinary hospital or animal care clinic for a health screening and treatment.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, on an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 99 degrees in just ten minutes, 109 degrees within twenty minutes, and 114 degrees within thirty minutes. Animals do not perspire like humans do, so they have no way to cool down in hot conditions, potentially causing irreversible organ damage, heat stroke, brain damage, and in extreme cases, death.

Dinniman said that his bill is based on similar measures passed in other states. Currently, 17 states have laws that protect animals from being left in hot cars, with Arizona passing such a bill on May 10.

“The health of an animal can deteriorate very fast when exposed to extreme heat,” Dinniman said. “It is vital that we grant police officers and public safety personnel greater authority to act to save a dog or cat in distress if necessary.”

In addition, the bill stipulates that:

  • Police officers, humane officers or other or other public safety professionals cannot be held liable for potential damages to a vehicle in such rescue situations.
  • Police officers, humane officers or other or other public safety professionals must leave written notification on a vehicle upon removing a dog or car in distress.
  • That the vehicle’s owner be held liable for costs related to the subsequent veterinary care of the animal.

The bill, which has 12 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, now goes to the Senate floor.

 

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