Keeping animals cool this summer: Know the laws

dog in hot carDon’t leave your dog in a car on a hot day! How many times have we heard that?

And yet, it is easy to tell yourself "I just had the air conditioning on so the car is cool and I’ll just be a few minutes".  But did you know:

–  a study by McMaster University found that within 20 minutes on a 95 degree F day, the temperature of a small car that was just air-conditioned can exceed 122 degrees F within 20 minutes and soar to 150 degrees F within 40 minutes? (Leaving the window slightly didn’t help.)

–  on a cooler 78 degree day, temperatures inside a car parked in the shade can reach 90 degrees or higher — and reach 160 degrees if the car is in the sun

–  even on a sunny day when the temperature is only in the 60s, a vehicle can reach dangerously high temperatures inside

– rolling down the windows won’t help much on a hot day and can leave your pet vulnerable to escape or danger from passersby and confining a dog in an enclosed space creates the risk the dog will become aggressive and could bite someone sticking their hands in the window, perhaps someone trying to rescue the dog

– leaving your pet in a car with the air conditioning running can be dangerous – the compressor can shut down if the engine gets too hot and blow hot air into the car. (Dogs have died this way)

–  something could happen to delay you while your dog or other pet is left in the car too long with fatal results

–  animals don’t sweat like we do and if dogs have only hot air to breathe, they can die of heat stroke or suffer brain damage

–  in just 15 minutes in a hot car, your pet’s body temperature can climb to levels that will cause permanent injury or even death

Also, even though you do not intend to hurt your pet by leaving him in the car on a warm day while you shop, have dinner, or visit a friend, it is illegal in many states.  

In California, for example, it is illegal to "leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat". Cal. Penal Code §597.7. Violators face a stiff fine, up to $500 if the animal suffers great bodily injury and up to 6 months in jail. Not to mention the suffering inflicted on your pet. New York NY CLS Agr & M § 353-d, Illinois § 510 ILCS 70/7.1 and Nevada, Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 574.195 have similar laws.

In Maryland "[a] person may not leave a cat or dog unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog." Transportation Article 21-1004.1 New Jersey’s law is similar. N.J. Stat. § 4:22-17

It is a crime in Maine to "confine[] an animal in a …car, boat, vehicle or vessel of any kind when extreme heat…will be harmful to its health". 7 MRS § 4011(1)(J), 17 M.R.S. §1031(K)

A West Virginia law makes it a crime to "[l]eave an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result". W. Va. Code § 61-8-19  

Colorado’s law is typical of a number of states: You can be charged with animal cruelty for "confin[ing] in or upon any vehicles in a cruel or reckless manner….or…fail[ing] to provide….protection from the weather".  C.R.S. 18-9-202  Or Pennsylvania’s Law:  It is the crime of animal cruelty to fail to "protect the animal against inclement weather…. A person commits a summary offense if he carries, or causes, or allows to be carried in or upon any cart, or other vehicle whatsoever, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner." 18 Pa.C.S. § 5511 Massachusetts law is similar. ALM GL ch. 272, § 77  Also, see Fl. Code § 828.12

You get the idea. Even under the most vague or antiquated of these laws, you could be charged and convicted of animal cruelty for leaving your pet in the car even on a balmy but sunny day just for a half  hour. Don’t do it.

Even if you don’t leave your pet in a car or other vehicle during the summer, remember leaving him outside in the yard can be just as dangerous. Dogs need relief from summer heat and shade from bright sun. Bring your dog inside in the heat of summer!

Many people with pets may not be aware that they could also face animal cruelty charges for failing to provide protection from hot weather while at home.

As you can see, some of the laws mentioned above are general and require protection from the weather anywhere. Connecticut’s law is typical: It is illegal to "fail[] to provide protection from the weather" for your pets. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-247 There are similar laws in a number of states including Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-1-2, California, Cal Penal Code §597; Wyoming, WY Code 6-3-203, Maryland,  Md. CRIMINAL LAW Code  § 10-604; Maine, 7 M.R.S. § 4015, 17 MRS §§ 1021, 1037; Washington, D.C., D.C. Code  22-1001; and Ohio, ORC  § 959.131.

Michigan MCLS § 750.50, and New  York NY CLS Agr & M § 353-b, and Delaware, 9 Del. C. § 904  have specific requirements for providing shelter for dogs to protect them from weather and the elements, in particular, extreme temperatures.

Other examples: In South Carolina a person must provide "shelter that reasonably may be expected to protect the animal from physical suffering or impairment of health due to exposure to the elements or adverse weather." S.C. Code §§ 47-1-10, 70

A Minnesota law requires animals to be "properly sheltered from … hot… or inclement weather." Minn. Stat. § 343.29 North Dakota has a similar law. N.D. Cent. Code, § 36-21.1-06

Montana requires "minimum protection for the animal from adverse weather conditions, with consideration given to the species". Mont. Code § 45-8-211 A Kansas law is similar. K.S.A. § 21-4310.

In Virginia "adequate shelter" means provision of and access to shelter that is suitable for the species, age, condition, size, and type of each animal…and protects each animal from injury, rain, sleet, snow, hail, direct sunlight, the adverse effects of heat". Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6500 Vermont has a similar law. 13 V.S.A. § 352. In Louisiana, La. R.S. 14:102, .1  "'[p]roper shelter’ means providing each animal with adequate shelter from the elements as required to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering by the animal."

A Wisconsin law requires "[w]hen sunlight is likely to cause heat exhaustion of an animal tied or caged outside, sufficient shade by natural or artificial means shall be provided to protect the animal from direct sunlight….Natural or artificial shelter appropriate to the local climatic conditions for the species concerned shall be provided as necessary for the health of the animal… If a dog is tied or confined unattended outdoors under weather conditions which adversely affect the health of the dog, a shelter of suitable size to accommodate the dog shall be provided. Wis. Stat. § 951.14  

In Oregon, ORS § 167.310, .330 it is required to have a dog house or other enclosed structure sufficient to protect the animal from wind, rain, snow or sun…[w]ith air temperature suitable for the animal".

In New Hampshire it is a crime to fail to provide "shelter" or "necessary shelter" for dogs which means "any natural or artificial area which provides protection from the direct sunlight and adequate air circulation when that sunlight is likely to cause heat exhaustion of a dog tied or caged outside". RSA 644:8. Florida, Fl. Code § 828.12; Alabama, Code of Ala. § 13A-11-241, Arizona, A.R.S. § 13-2910, Idaho, Idaho Code § §25-3502, 3504, Oklahoma, 21 Okl. St. § 1685 and Tennessee, Tenn. Code § 39-14-202 have similar laws requiring "necessary shelter".

In Indiana it is illegal for an animal to be outside in "excessive heat without providing the animal with a means of shade from the heat". Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 35-46-3-0.5

Texas law requires protection for some chained dogs from heat advisories or other extreme weather conditions. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 821.077 

Note:  Some of these laws may only apply to pets or companion animals and not equines or farm animals. There may be other laws governing shelter from hot weather for farm animals during transportation or otherwise, and there are federal and some state laws concerning shelter for animals held by breeders and pet stores or for exhibition or research. Find out what is legally required where you live to protect your pets or other animals in your care from summer heat and, more importantly, what is recommended by animal welfare experts.  Take the time to take the common sense steps to protect your animals from harm and yourself from criminal liability.