Laws which protect pets from being left in vehicles unattended

There are a growing number of local legislatures who pass laws making it illegal to leave a pet unattended in a car just as it is illegal to leave children unattended. There are currently 17 states in America which protect pets from being left in hot cars. Tennessee is the most recent to add such a law.

Cats inside a car
Cats inside a car
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Shelter officials are calling upon a bill to be introduced by the Pennsylvania legislature. The bill will be an upgrade to current state animal cruelty legislation.

The fact that they are discussing legislation to punish people who leave their pets unattended inside vehicles indicates that people are not getting the message about the dangers of doing this.  Every summer there are a number of cases.

Sen Rob Teplitz, D-15, is working on a bill which he hope to introduce within the next few weeks.  The bill prohibits the confinement of an animal in an unattended motor vehicle “in a manner that would endanger the health and well-being of the animal”.  The name of the bill is Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act. It would be a summary offence.  I presume this means that the offender is punished on the spot by the police.

Temperatures inside vehicles can become very high even when the temperatures outside are moderate because of a greenhouse effect.  If the temperature outside is 80°F the temperature inside a car can reach 99°F in 10 mins.  Within 30 minutes the temperature will be 114°F. Leaving a window slightly open will not be enough to prevent the temperature rising to dangerous levels. Dogs and cats have greater difficulty in cooling themselves down because they don’t sweat.  Cats pant and lick their fur. The saliva will cool the cat when it evaporates but the temperature buildup is so severe that this will not save the cat.

The proposed legislation will also allow bystanders to take action if they see an animal in distress inside a car which means that they are allowed to rescue the animal by breaking a window if that is required.

Perhaps the favoured option for somebody who wants to rescue an animal is to go inside the store where the car is parked (if that is the case) and ask management to make an announcement.  In addition or alternatively, the rescuer can call the local police.  The best solution is to try and keep the authorities out of it, in my opinion provided that is appropriate under the circumstances.

The presence of the law if it is passed will raise awareness of the dangers.  This is one of the silent advantages of legislation.  It acts proactively.  In fact, that is the best way that the law can work.  It can shape society’s attitude.


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