FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — With warmer temperatures moving into California, it is essential to keep your pets safe from the heat — and a hot car is somewhere they can get especially hot.
According to a state law passed in 2016, a person can not leave or confine an animal in “any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal.”
California penal code 597.7 says endangering conditions include heat, cold, lack of ventilation, lack of food or water, or “other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”
Can a person take matters into their own hands if they see a pet trapped inside a hot car? The answer is yes.
A “Good Samaritan Law” allows you to use any reasonable means necessary to rescue the animal which could mean breaking a window without having to pay for damages or face criminal charges.
According to California Assembly Bill 797, also known as the Right to Rescue Act, a person is allowed to break into a vehicle to rescue an animal if certain conditions are met and the person does all of the following:
- Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable manner for the animal to be removed from the vehicle;
- Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm if it is not immediately removed from the vehicle, and, based upon the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one;
- Has contacted a local law enforcement agency, the fire department, animal control, or the “911” emergency service prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
- Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the animal from the vehicle than is necessary under the circumstances.
Kylie Ortega with the Fresno County Humane Society says the heat can be detrimental to our furry friends.
“Even when parked in the shade or with a window cracked, a car is like an oven and can become extremely hot for an animal in a matter of minutes. Even on a mild, 75-degree day, after 20 minutes, the car temperature can rise to 104 degrees. High heat is dangerous to all pets, but especially smoosh-face breeds (like bulldogs, boxers, and Boston terriers), senior pets, giant breed dogs, and overweight pets,” says Ortega.
How can you tell if a pet is suffering from heat stroke? Ortega says there are several signs to look for.
“Some signs of heat stroke are lethargy, elevated temperature, dizziness, confusion, collapsing, heavy panting, vomiting, drooling, and bright or dark red tongue. Heat stroke can be fatal. If it’s warm out, leave pets at home or bring them home before you need to run errands. Be sure their environment is cool, and comfortable, and that they have access to water,” says Ortega.
What penalties does a pet owner face for endangering their pet and leaving them in unfavorable conditions?
According to California law, a first-time violation could be up to $100 per animal. If a pet suffers a significant injury while unattended, pet owners could receive a $500 fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months in county jail.
Those who violated the law a second time, regardless if the animal gets injured, will get a $500 fine and/or six months in jail.