No penalty for leaving pets in hot car

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by By JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on June 24, 2009 at 10:22 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 12:52 PM

Pets Pay the Price

Janet St. James reports

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DALLAS - If you think it's hot for you, imagine wearing a heavy coat during this heat wave.

That's the situation facing many pets during a North Texas summer, but who is watching over their welfare?

Not the law, apparently.

Even with the windows open, temperatures inside a parked car on a hot summer's day can reach 120 degrees in minutes. Unlike leaving a child in these conditions, there is no penalty for leaving a pet.

When temperatures reach extremes, Dallas Animal Services receives hundreds of calls - many asking for the agency to check on pets left behind in hot cars. It's estimated that thousands die each year in their owner's vehicle.

A News 8 viewer sent this photo of dogs chained in the back of a pickup truck.

A viewer e-mailed a picture to News 8 showing several dogs chained in a hot truck bed this past weekend. The viewer called police, but officers did nothing.

"In most cases, law enforcement personnel look the other way because they don't know how to address it," explained SPCA of Texas president James Bias. "There is no law that allows them to get that animal out of harm's way."

Bias said few communities have ordinances to fine owners who leave a pet in a hot car. In cases where the animal doesn't die, cruelty charges are rarely filed.

"We certainly would like to see an ordinance on a local level, or a state law that would say: If your pet is unattended in a vehicle, that you could face some sort of penalty," Bias said. "We think that would be catalyst enough for some people to say, 'We'll leave the pet at home.'"

One Dallas resident called animal control to report a thin dog tied up in a backyard on a short tether with no water and no food. The agency invetigated and took control of the friendly boxer, calling it a small victory in their efforts to protect pets from the heat.

"At least we rescued the dog and the dog isn't going to be suffering," said Dallas Animal Services manager Kent Robertson.

Pet owners convicted of cruelty charges face the potential of fines and even jail time.

Dogs and cats can't sweat, so remember to give them plenty of water and adequate shelter. And if you're running errands, leave your four-legged family members at home in a cool place.

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