It is a well-known fact that leaving a dog in a hot car is a dangerous practice. A car left in 78-degree weather can smolder to an internal temperature of 160 degrees in a matter of minutes, even if the windows are cracked.
In recent years, several dogs have died as a result of being left in hot cars and the media has taken note. Thankfully, the increased awareness seems to be spurring states to take action. So far, these sixteen states were identified by the Michigan State University College of Law as having written laws that make it a criminal offense to leave a dog in a hot car:
Thanks to its hot temperatures and thousands of yearly visitors, Arizona passed laws stating that it is illegal to leave animals “unattended and confined” in a car when there is any chance that the dog will suffer heat stroke or death as a result of the action. This is a class one misdemeanor. In addition, law enforcement or a peace officer can use reasonable force to rescue the dog in distress.
California was one of the first states to make leaving a dog in a hot car illegal and has laws that expressly forbid people from leaving any animal in a car under conditions that in any way place the pet at risk. The punishment for the first conviction of this crime is $100, unless the dog suffers an injury, in which case offenders can face a fine of up to $600 and/or six months in jail. Dog welfare authorities can do whatever is necessary to free a trapped dog.
Illinois passed laws that expressly state an animal may not be left in a car during conditions of extreme heat or cold because this will likely result in the injury or death of the animal. This crime is a class C misdemeanor and, if committed again, becomes a class B misdemeanor. Law enforcement can use any reasonable means to enter the vehicle and must make an effort to find the owner.
In Maine, it is legal for an authorized person, such as a firefighter, first responder, animal control officer or licensed security guard, to break the window of a hot, locked car in order to free an animal trapped inside. While there is no penalty, the owner of the dog is liable for all charges incurred in the process of rescuing and taking care of the pet.
In Maryland, it is expressly illegal for a cat or dog to be locked in a vehicle that could endanger the health or wellbeing of the pet. This is a violation of the motor vehicle code in this state and offenders are liable for a fine.
Like Maryland, Minnesota has laws that protect cats and dogs from being left in standing or parked cars on excessively warm days. A person found guilty of this petty misdemeanor could be liable for a $25 fine.
Due to Nevada’s warm temperatures, the state passed laws that make it a misdemeanor to leave dogs or cats in hot cars.
New Hampshire’s weather is all over the map and, since the state endures both extreme heat and extreme cold, laws were passed that make it illegal to leave an animal in a car that threatens the pet's well-being on the basis of being too warm or too cold. Offenders will be convicted of a misdemeanor, or a class B felony for a second or subsequent offense.
Due to several criminal cases that resulted from owners leaving their dogs in hot cars, New Jersey passed laws that made it illegal to leave a dog in the car under “inhumane conditions”, including extreme heat. A first-time offender will be fined no less than $250 and no more than $1,000, or imprisoned for up to six months, or both.
In New York, it is illegal for any pet owner to leave an animal in the car under extremely hot or cold temperatures. Any person convicted of this as a first offense is liable to pay no less than $50 and no more than $100. If the person is found guilty of this crime twice, he is liable to pay a fine of between $100 and $250.
North Carolina’s laws state that it is illegal to leave an animal locked in a car under conditions that place the pet at any risk of injury or death, including extreme heat, cold or inadequate ventilation.
Like many other Midwest states, North Dakota has laws making it illegal to leave a dog in a parked car during unsuitable conditions.
Rhode Island’s laws state that it is a crime to leave any animal in a car during hot or cold temperatures. Anyone guilty of this can be imprisoned for a term up to one year or be fined up to $1,000 or both.
South Dakota’s laws state that it is illegal to leave any animal in a car under inhumane conditions.
In Vermont, owners that leave their animals in excessively hot cars can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to one year, or a fine of not more than $2,000, or both.
Anyone who leaves an animal unattended and confined in a car in West Virginia will be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined between $300 and $2,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
LovePets would like to see similar laws implemented in all fifty states.