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Dinniman, Veterinarians Call to Protect Pets Left in Hot Vehicles
HARRISBURG (June 21, 2017) – State Senator Andy Dinniman marked the first day of summer by calling for passage of his bill, Senate Bill 636, to protect pets left unattended in hot cars.
Dinniman was joined by state Rep. Frank Farry, state Rep. Dom Costa, Kristen Tullo of the Humane Society of the United States, and Mary Jane McNamee of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) in supporting the legislation at a press conference at the East Wing Plaza of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex.
The press conference came a day after the unanimous Senate passage of Libre’s Law, House Bill 1238, a comprehensive animal protection bill that better defines and increases the penalties for animal cruelty. Libre’s Law now goes to the governor who has indicated that he will sign it into law.
“Let’s not let another summer go by without passing this bill and without providing better and strong protections for our dogs and cats,” Dinniman said. “Our goal is to better educate pet owners and the pet community about the dangers of leaving your animal in a hot car, as well as empowering law enforcement and public safety officials to rescue dogs from danger in such situations.”
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.
The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania FOP and AAA.
Reps. Farry and Costa, who have introduced a similar measure in the House, House Bill 1216, echoed Dinniman’s comments regarding the need to better inform and educate the public about the danger extreme heat poses to pets and humans alike.
“If your pet is left in a hot vehicle they can suffer permanent organ damage or death,” Farry said. “We have people who are great pet owners, but they really don’t think about that impact.”
Costa said that many pet owners who leave their companions in hot vehicles do so inadvertently.
“Many don’t realize that the time passes faster than they think,” he said. “But the experts will tell you how quickly it can happen, and this bill is a great tool to let the public know. Once it passes, we need to get out and educate people about this.”
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 some cases, death.
Senate Bill 636 also 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. In addition, under the bills, the vehicle’s owner is held liable for costs related to the subsequent veterinary care of the animal.
“We want to bring clarity to the law, so that a pet in distress can be rescued,” Dinniman said.
Tullo, Pennsylvania State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, discussed steps individuals and businesses can currently take to prevent animals from suffering in hot vehicles.
Those who encounter a pet left in a vehicle on a hot day should note the make, model, and license plate of the vehicle and ask the store manager to page the owner. In addition, Tullo suggested that more businesses and shopping centers add signage warning pet owners of the dangers of leaving their animals unattended in hot vehicles.
“If you know you’re going shopping or somewhere where you can’t bring your dog, leave our dog at home – not in your car,” she said.
Tullo and Dr. Jane McNamee, Chair of the PVMA Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Committee, also offered a demonstration in cooling down a hot dog with cold compresses, cold water, and shade.
“Because dogs and cats do not sweat like humans do, it is imperative to provide emergency first aid in this critical period, in order to stabilize the pet and to provide some relief until it can be transported to a veterinarian for treatment. Heat stroke can cause irreversible organ damage, brain damage and, in extreme cases, death in just a matter of minutes. These are simple but vital measures that anyone can take,” McNamee said.
Senate Bill 636, which unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, is now on the Senate floor. It has 12 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle
House Bill 1216, which is currently in the House Judiciary Committee, as 29 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. It unanimously passed the House (as House Bill 1516) during the 2015-16 session, but was not acted on in the Senate.
“The bottom line is this needs to be done and needs to be done now,” Dinniman said. “We know that the vast majority Pennsylvanians care about their pets and consider them members of their families. This is a commonsense bill that has broad bipartisan support and we are committed to getting it done. We cannot allow the legislature to let summer after summer go by without enacted such humane legislation. The time to act is now before the legislature adjourns for the summer.”