Summer is here and the temperature continues to rise. Many people don’t think twice about leaving their dog in a hot car while they ‘just run into the store’. If you and your dog work outside all day your dog may be accustomed to that. What people don’t realize is that even though they think it’s just a quick trip they could potentially be putting their dogs life in danger. If the temperature is 75 degrees outside it takes as short as ten minutes, even with the windows open, for the internal temperature of the vehicle to reach 100 degrees. It can only take minutes for your dog to have heat stroke which could result in death. Unless your dog is accustomed to the heat, it would be best to leave them home.
So what can YOU legally do in New York State if you see a dog locked in a hot vehicle?
I reached out to a friend of mine that is a New York State Trooper and asked him. He made some calls and did some research and advised me that basically there is nothing you, as a bystander, can do without being held liable for the damage. You could be charged with criminal mischief if you take action and would be liable for any damage that you did to the vehicle. If you get the dog out and you lose control of the dog once it’s out you will be liable for anything that happens. If that dog is sick and it infects other dogs or animals, you’re liable. If that dog bites someone, you’re liable. If that dog runs into traffic and causes a ten car pile up? Well, you get the picture.
The ONLY action you can legally take in New York State is to call the police.
You should start with your local police department. If you don’t know which department covers your location, call the state police. Do not call animal control first. They do not have the authority to break into a vehicle either and they will wait for the police to arrive.
Once the police arrive they will try to find the owner. If they cannot locate the owner and the dog is in dire distress the officers will call their superiors to receive authorization to take action. The superior must be called so they will legally be covered by insurance if one of the scenarios mentioned previously were to happen (dog bites someone once released, etc.).
The owner of the dog will be issued an appearance ticket. According to New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets law locking a dog in a hot car is punishable by a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars for a first offense, and a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred and fifty dollars for a second and subsequent offenses.
You can read the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets law here – Section 353d.
Special thanks to Trooper D. for answering all my questions and making calls and doing research for me. I greatly appreciate it!