Yes, it’s hot outside. At least, that’s the case here in the northeast. So as we get ready for the Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer, I am begging you guys to do me a huge favor. Please, whatever you do, do not leave your pets — or your kids — in the car by themselves.
I don’t care if you’ll “only be gone for a couple of minutes.” I don’t care if you leave the windows open. It doesn’t even matter if you parked in the shade.
Leaving your pet in a parked car by itself is a recipe for disaster — and in some states it’s also against the law.
Yes, It’s Criminal
For people in my line of work, certain websites are invaluable. In fact, animallaw.info is the first place I check when I’ve got an especially challenging assignment. With just a few clicks of a mouse I can find just about anything I need — which often saves a lot of time. So naturally that’s the first place I checked when I wanted to find out more about state laws prohibiting people from leaving their animals in parked cars.
According to an article by Rebecca F. Wisch that I found there, leaving an animal in a parked car was illegal in 19 states as of 2015.
“Most of these laws provide that the animals must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle,” Wisch says. “Further, the laws add that in order for a person to violate the law, the conditions have to endanger the animal’s life. Some of the statutes specifically state that extreme hot or cold temperatures, lack of adequate ventilation, or failing to provide food and drink meet this definition. Other laws are more vague and just require that the conditions are such that physical injury or death is likely to result.”
In other words, don’t push your luck if you live in one of the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
A Closer Look
In at least seven of the states with existing laws, leaving an animal in a parked car is a misdemeanor. This typically means punishment upon conviction includes fines, up to a year in jail, or both. In other states, it is a petty misdemeanor, violation or infraction carrying lesser penalties upon conviction. A noticeable exception is New Hampshire, where a “second or subsequent offense” is a Class B felony.
“Even without a local or state law, this action could still constitute cruelty under some circumstances,” Wisch says.
If all of that’s not enough to make you think twice, consider this. How would you like it if someone locked you in a boiling hot car against your will?