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Los Angeles: With the summer approaching and the temperatures on the rise, the Los Angeles Police Department Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACTF) has been flooded with calls from members of the public reporting dogs left unattended in vehicles. The ACTF currently has approximately seven cases involving pets left in vehicles that are pending prosecution, and summer is just beginning.
It is a violation of Penal Code Section 597.7 to leave animals unattended in a motor vehicle in situations likely to cause them harm. Violation of this section could result in a fine and or imprisonment in the county jail. Cases involving gross neglect, resulting in great bodily injury or death to the animal, are generally presented to the District Attorney’s Office for felony filing consideration.
Even on a mild day, the interior of a vehicle can soar to dangerous temperatures for a pet and become unsafe within minutes. Studies have shown that within thirty minutes the temperature in a motor vehicle can rise 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Leaving the windows partially open has little effect on the spike in temperature inside a vehicle. Unlike humans, dogs and cats do not perspire and their fur coats can rapidly overheat. Heat stroke is a severe pathological state in which an animal’s body temperature becomes dangerously elevated due to inability to thermo regulate. For dogs and cats, being left in a vehicle on a hot day would be no different than leaving them in a hot oven.
Indications that an animal is suffering from heat stroke may include rapid panting, vomiting, dizziness, thick sticky saliva, shock and coma. If the animal is in need of emergency medical care, the animal will be taken to an available veterinarian within the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.
Pet owners who leave their pets unattended inside a vehicle may be surprised when they return and realize that their unattended pet has been removed: retrieving the pet may not be easy. The LAPD or Animal Control Officers will remove the unattended animal from a vehicle if the animal’s safety appears to be in immediate danger and they will initiate and conduct a criminal investigation. The Department of Animal Services requires proof of licensing before the return of the animal if the owner resides within the City Los Angeles. An animal could also be kept as evidence and a lien could be imposed on the owner during a criminal investigation. Following criminal prosecution, restitution may be sought for the veterinary and housing cost of the animal.
Leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle is a crime that is easily preventable.
It is highly recommended that owners do not leave their pets unattended in a motor vehicle if they want to avoid serious injury to their pet and becoming the subject of a police and/or Animal Control Officer response.
If a member of the public believes an animal has been left unattended in a motor vehicle, and is in a life threatening situation they should call 911.
As a friendly reminder if you pet does not need to travel with you, for pet safety leave your love one at home.