HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – Temperatures are set to rise into the high 90s on Thursday, and it will feel even hotter than that. The hot weather means danger inside hot cars. 22News takes a closer look at state laws designed to keep pets safe, and to protect people trying to help.
A Heat Advisory is in effect until 8 p.m. Friday, for Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and southern Berkshire Counties. An Air Quality Alert is in effect until 11 p.m. Thursday in central/eastern Hampden County & central/eastern Hampshire County.
Since 1998, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said almost a thousand children have died from being left in a hot car. Since it can only take minutes for a parked car to reach life-threatening temperatures, Hadley Police said if you can’t bring your dog inside where you’re going, then you should leave them at home.
“There’s really not a safe situation where a person should be leaving their dog in their car,” Lieutenant Mitchell Kuc said.
The Hadley Police Department said they receive calls about hot car concerns regularly and in Massachusetts there is a law that allows you to intervene. For example, you can break a window to get the pet out but you need to make an effort to find the driver of the car first. Ultimately, Lieutenant Kuc said the best thing you can do is call 911.
“We take them very seriously and we can usually be on scene within just a few minutes to assess and take action if needed,” Kuc said.
When it’s hot outside, it’s even hotter inside your car. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside your car can warm up to 99 degrees in just 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, the temperature can reach 109 degrees and after an hour, more than 120 degrees.
Steps you can take if you see a pet in a parked car according to South Hadley police:
- Take down the car’s make, model and license plate number.
- If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
- If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.
Laws and penalties on leaving a pet in a hot car
It’s illegal in Massachusetts to confine an animal in a vehicle exposed to extreme weather conditions. If you’re caught in violation you could be fined $150 for a first offense with fines increasing for multiple offenses.
The law says police, firefighters, or animal control can enter your vehicle if there’s an animal inside who’s in distress. A civilian can also enter your car to rescue a pet but only if there’s no other way for the animal to get out, they’ve made an attempt to contact the owner, and only after calling 911 first.
Massachusetts law also protects civilians who rescue pets in distress from civil or criminal liability.