Animal Safety

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There have been new laws signed by the legislature regarding dogs in cars. As we have many parking lots in town, these laws will directly affect the department during the warmer weather months.

The “old” standard for dealing with dogs in hot cars fell under M.G.L. c. 272, §77. In essence, locking a dog in a hot car was NOT illegal. Action could only have legally been taken once the animal was showing signs of heat related illness and the owner was not around to address the situation – that is animal cruelty. Once an animal was found to be in heat related distress, the pet could be removed from the car but it was required to be taken immediately to a veterinarian as it was seized under exigent circumstances and medical care justified the breach into the car.

The passage of M.G.L. c. 140, §174F Confinement of animal in a motor vehicle causing exposure to extreme heat or cold; protection of animal by animal control or law enforcement officer or fire fighter; penalties will vastly improve our response and allow for protections against liability.  However, the law does apply to the public and abuse of the laws internet is possible.

The new law allows police to remove a dog from a motor vehicle “that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat”. If the outside temperature is over 70 degrees or higher and the sun is shining with the windows of the car are anywhere but fully rolled down, that would be grounds to remove the dog from a vehicle. (see heat chart)

If the dog is removed because it was found suffering from heat related illness then it still must go to a veterinarian immediately.

If the dog is removed for its own protection due to the weather, it is the officer’s discretion on how to holding the animal.

The dog can be held on scene until the owner returns as long as the officer stays in their vehicle with the pet or the dog can be brought to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, Dedham Shelter under the Loose Dog SOP.

If the dog is found in a car and the conditions could be deemed as potentially dangerous, or removed the officer has the authority to issue a noncriminal disposition (civil infraction) for a Warning(officers option), $150 (1st offense), $300 (2nd Offence) and $500 for any subsequent offence. This will almost always be limited to $150 as there will be no record of how many times an owner will have been cited except for officer recognition.

If the dog is removed and was suffering from heat related stress the owner MUST be charged with animal cruelty (M.G.L. c. 272, §77 Animal Cruelty is a MUST prosecute law) with the civil infraction being issued as well.

Section (d) of this law offers indemnity from criminal or civil liability for taking the pet specifically “municipality that employs the officer or fire fighter shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.”

Section (e) does allow non-law enforcement or fire personnel to take the pet from a car that “that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat” as long as certain steps are followed. The good samaritan must:

                                 1) call 911 first

                                 2) check to make sure the car is unlocked BEFORE breaking windows

                                 3) the conditions meet the level of being dangerous to the pet

                                 4) Keeps the animal confined and safe until ACO or police arrive.

If the good samaritan follows those four steps they are also indemnified from civil and criminal litigation.

Heat Chart

(American Veterinary Medical Association)

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time

Elapsed time

Outside Air Temperature (F)

 

70

75

80

85

90

95

 

0 minutes

70

75

80

85

90

95

 

10 minutes

89

94

99

104

109

114

 

20 minutes

99

104

109

114

119

124

 

30 minutes

104

109

114

119

124

129

 

40 minutes

108

113

118

123

128

133

 

50 minutes

111

116

121

126

131

136

 

60 minutes

113

118

123

128

133

138

 

> 1 hour

115

120

125

130

135

140

 

Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University.

A dog’s normal body temp is 99.5~102.5º. Dogs can regulate their body temperate at temperatures up to 90 degrees depending on the breed. Warmer temperatures than that, most dogs can start to have heat stress.

At 105~106º, the pet is at risk for developing heat exhaustion. If the body temperature rises to 107º, your pet has entered the critical zone of heat stroke. With heat stroke, irreversible damage and death can occur.

M.G.L. c. 140, §174F: Confinement of animal in a motor vehicle causing exposure to extreme heat or cold; protection of animal by animal control or law enforcement officer or fire fighter; penalties

Section 174F. (a) A person shall not confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.

(b) After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle's owner, an animal control officer, as defined in section 136A, law enforcement officer or fire fighter may enter a motor vehicle by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal. An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter may enter the motor vehicle for the sole purpose of assisting the animal and may not search the vehicle or seize items found in the vehicle unless otherwise permitted by law.

(c) An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal under this section shall leave written notice in a secure and conspicuous location on or in the motor vehicle bearing the officer's or fire fighter's name and title and the address of the location where the animal may be retrieved. The owner may retrieve the animal only after payment of all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal.

(d) An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal from a motor vehicle under subsection (b), and the agency or municipality that employs the officer or fire fighter shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.

(e) After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle's owner, a person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter shall not enter a motor vehicle to remove an animal to protect the health and safety of that animal in immediate danger unless the person: (i) notifies law enforcement or calls 911 before entering the vehicle; (ii) determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit and uses not more force than reasonably necessary to enter the motor vehicle and remove the animal; (iii) has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal; and (iv) remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.

(f) A person who removes an animal from a motor vehicle pursuant to subsection (e) shall be immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.

(g) A violation of subsection (a) shall be a civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $150 for a first offense, by a fine of not more than $300 for a second offense and by a fine of not more than $500 for a third or subsequent offense.

(h) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under section 77 of chapter 272.