SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Most dog owners know that you can’t leave a pet in a hot car but it’s still a nationwide problem. With extreme heat headed our way, it’s important to know the laws.
Hundreds of pets die from car-related heat stroke each year. Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill in 2016 that makes it illegal to leave animals in vehicles in extreme weather conditions.
It doesn’t have to be super hot outside for your car to heat up. The inside of a vehicle parked in 70-degree weather can reach 100 degrees in just 20 minutes. Studies have shown that even cracking a window doesn’t help.
A total of 31 states, including Massachusetts, have laws that prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions. In Massachusetts, you could face a $1,000 fine or go to prison for up to one year.
“I would suggest having a really big sign that says my car is running with the Air Conditioner on because people will see an animal in the car and want to help. The best strategy is to not take them with you on those hot days and put yourself in that situation where you might have to leave them in a car,” said Carmine DiCenso, Associated Director of Dakin Humane Society.
All dogs are susceptible to heat stroke. Dogs that have a relatively broad, short skull like Pugs and Bulldogs have a higher chance of suffering from heat stroke.
The law also prohibits dogs from being tethered outdoors for more than 15 minutes during a weather advisory, warning, or watch. A heat advisory will be in effect across western Massachusetts on Wednesday and an excessive heat watch will be in place for eastern Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties on Thursday. The heat index will be upwards of 105 degrees, meaning that Thursday will be dangerously hot outside.
What can I do if I see a dog in a hot car?
State law indicates that you must make an attempt to find the pet owner or contact an officer or firefighter before attempting to rescue the dog.
- Officer/Firefighter Rescue:
- After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle’s owner, an animal control officer, as defined in section 136A, law enforcement officer or fire fighter may enter a motor vehicle by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal. An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter may enter the motor vehicle for the sole purpose of assisting the animal and may not search the vehicle or seize items found in the vehicle unless otherwise permitted by law.
- An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal under this section shall leave written notice in a secure and conspicuous location on or in the motor vehicle bearing the officer’s or fire fighter’s name and title and the address of the location where the animal may be retrieved. The owner may retrieve the animal only after payment of all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal.
- An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal from a motor vehicle under subsection (b), and the agency or municipality that employs the officer or fire fighter shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.
2. Attempting to rescue the animal yourself:
- After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle’s owner, a person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter shall not enter a motor vehicle to remove an animal to protect the health and safety of that animal in immediate danger unless the person: (i) notifies law enforcement or calls 911 before entering the vehicle; (ii) determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit and uses not more force than reasonably necessary to enter the motor vehicle and remove the animal; (iii) has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal; and (iv) remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.
- A person who removes an animal from a motor vehicle pursuant to subsection (e) shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.
3. Fines for not following the law:
- A violation of subsection (a) shall be a civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $150 for a first offense, by a fine of not more than $300 for a second offense and by a fine of not more than $500 for a third or subsequent offense.
- Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under section 77 of chapter 272.