Blog by Elissa Katz, Humane PA President
I love warm, sunny days! Who doesn’t – right? Nothing feels better than closing your eyes and turning your face toward the sun, feeling the warmth on your skin. That is, unless you’re a dog or cat locked in a car.
We have all read of so many tragedies during so many earlier summers. Dogs and cats suffering horrendously from heat stress – seizures, vomiting, disorientation, brain damage, and even death – as a result of being locked in a car, even for a short period of time – while their person thoughtlessly runs an errand, visits with someone, or is otherwise engaged. On a warm and sunny day, the temperature inside of a car can exceed 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. And on a hot day, when we are wiping our brows and carrying water bottles in 90 degree summer weather, the internal temperature of a car can soar to 160 degrees. Lowering or cracking a window has been shown to have little effect on a car’s temperature, and will do virtually nothing to protect the life of an animal locked inside.
But – here’s the good news: the Pennsylvania legislature can avoid such heat related tragedies by passing the bipartisan HB 1516 or the Senate version SB 977 – the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act. These bills not only raise awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in parked cars, but will allow police officers, humane officers or other public safety professionals to remove a dog or cat from an unattended motor vehicle if they believe that the dog or cat is suffering and is endangered after a reasonable search for the owner or operator of the vehicle, and without any liability for any damages. The animal must then be transported to a veterinary hospital or animal care clinic for treatment, with a conspicuous note being left for the owner. Those who confine a dog or cat in a car under conditions that jeopardize the animal’s life will be charged with a summary offense.
SB 977 and HB 1516 can mean the difference between life and death; between whether an animal is saved or perishes. Yet, both of these bills remain in the Judiciary Committees of their respective legislative chambers, even as summer weather fast approaches. We find that unacceptable – and we are sure you do too. So, let’s all jump into action to do something about it. Please contact both your state representative and senator with this simple message: “I am your constituent; please support SB 977 and HB 1516, the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act.” And – if your legislators are members of either the House or Senate Judiciary Committees, please also ask him or her to help move the bill through their committee.
The animals need our help to push these bills into law before the next heat wave. Let’s make sure that while we are enjoying the summer sun at the beach or at a pool, or seeking refuge inside with air conditioning, that no dog or cat is left to languish inside of a hot car.
Elissa B. Katz is the President of Humane PA and a partner in the law firm of Meranze, Katz, Gaudioso & Newlin, P.C. in Philadelphia. She is a regular volunteer with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Northeast Animal Rescue. She is also a board member of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.