As temperatures rise, consider the safety of your dog

Dogs-Temperature.jpgAs Memorial Day approaches, families are planning weekend trips and barbecues. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer for many and rising temperatures are on the way. Some may plan to take pets with them on trips, but leaving animals in the car can be deadly.

Temperatures are expected to reach 70 degrees on Monday, May 30 and climb through next week. Though 70 degrees feels pleasant outside, it can lead to temperatures climbing to an uncomfortable 89 degrees inside a car in just 10 minutes and over 100 degrees within a half hour, which can be deadly.

In addition to being dangerous for pets, locking pets inside a car can also land a dog owner in legal trouble. Lynnwood Today asked Lynnwood Animal Control Officer Paul Coleman how they respond to calls involving dogs locked inside cars, and how the law recently changed in Lynnwood:

Paul Coleman: Just to cover the basics, up until about July of 2015 the only violation we were able to address for this type of issue was  under was Animal Cruelty 2nd degree. This violation was used where there was an animal locked inside a car and was actually in distress.

In  July of 2015 a new law came into effect and it is covered under “Prevention of Animal Cruelty.” This new law is a Class 2 civil infraction with a $257 penalty. This new law covers the areas before the animal actually is in distress and allows officers to enter and remove the animal from a vehicle or confined space for the safety of the animal.

The new law reads as follows;

RCW 16.52.340

Leave of confine any animal in unattended motor vehicle or enclosed space – Officers’ authority to reasonable remove animal.

(1)          It is a class 2 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120 to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water.

(2)          To protect the health and safety of an animal, an animal control officer or law enforcement officer who reasonably believes that an animal is suffering or is likely to suffer harm from exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water is authorized to enter a vehicle or enclosed space to remove an animal by any means reasonable under the circumstances if no other person is present in the immediate area who has access to the vehicle or enclosed space and who will immediately remove the animal.

Lynnwood Today: What should I do if I see a dog locked in a hot car?

PC: If you feel the dog is in or near distress it would be best to dial 911 and report the find so local authorities can investigate.

LT: What are some things you look for when responding to a report of a dog in a hot car?

PC: While investigating a complaint such as this, many areas are looked at. We look at outside temperature, if the vehicle in the shade or direct sunlight, if the windows are open enough to provide adequate ventilation, is there water readily available for the dog, how is the dog reacting to the temperature inside the car and what is the temperature inside the vehicle.

LT: What is the minimum and maximum punishment for the dog’s owner for leaving the dog locked in the car?

PC: This new law allows an officer to cite a civil infraction for this violation with a penalty set at $257.  If the conditions are more extreme and fall under the animal cruelty law, 2nd degree is a Gross Misdemeanor and 1st degree is a class C felony.

LT: Will the dog be returned to the owner?

PC: At this time all dogs that have been removed from a vehicle have been returned to the owner.

LT: Do you have anything else to add?

PC: Signs of heat stress include heavy panting, glazed eyes, vomiting, dizziness or listlessness.

Heat stroke can start at a body temperature of just 107 degrees.

When I respond to investigate this type of complaint, I use an infrared thermometer to measure the interior temperatures of the car. I get readings from the lowest or coolest part of the vehicle and work my way up to the inside roof of the vehicle, the hottest area inside the car.  This helps in determining if the dog needs to be removed.

Once I contact the animal’s owners, I usually get people who are very upset or outraged that the animal was removed.  Most people don’t believe the inside of a car can get as hot as it does and I try to educate by showing  the thermometer reading so they understand.  Once people actually see the temperature reading they usually change their mind and are grateful that someone was able to rescue their animal. Animal owners are great people and I do not believe anyone would do this intentionally.

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