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PA Bill Would Make Leaving Pets In Cars A Summary Offense

As temperatures creep back into the 90s next week, one state lawmaker says he's looking ahead to protect dogs and other pets from being left in vehicles unattended.

The Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act would “prohibit the confinement of a dog or cat in an unattended motor vehicle in a manner that would endanger the health and wellbeing of the animal.” The violation would be a summary offense, which is the most minor criminal offense in the state and generally comes with a fine.

“The idea is to prevent people from leaving a dog or cat in a hot car, to give protection from liability to law enforcement or humane officers for removing the pet from that car,” said Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, the bill’s sponsor. “It would be a summary offense, but really what we want to do is bring awareness to the issue and protect animals.”

Under the bill, when faced with an animal left in a car, law enforcement or humane officers would be required first to try and find the vehicle’s owner.

“But if that’s not possible, and if the animal seems like it’s in distress, then the officer can enter the vehicle, rescue the pet, take it somewhere safe to be treated and leave a note for the vehicle owner,” Teplitz said.

The note is required to have information for the owner on where they can pick up their pet.

On an 80 degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 99 degrees in just 10 minutes and 114 degrees within 30 minutes, according to Teplitz's office. Animals left in these sweltering conditions face organ damage, heat stroke and brain damage, he said. 

Teplitz said it’s important to note that animals experience the elements differently.

“They experience heat more severely, and so even leaving them in a car for a couple of minutes while you run into the grocery store or the pharmacy, it can bring severe medical issues, perhaps even death,” he said.

There are currently 17 states that have laws that protect animals from being left in hot cars, most recently in Tennessee, which went into effect July 1. Pennsylvania legislation is modeled after a 2006 California law, Teplitz said.

The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 977, has nine co-sponsors. The House version, House Bill 1516, has 25 co-sponsors. Teplitz said both have bipartisan support. The General Assembly is set to reconvene Sept. 21.

Deanna fell in love with public radio in 2001, when she landed her first job at an NPR station: KRWG-FM in Las Cruces, NM, where she also attended college. After graduating with a degree in journalism and mass communications, she spent a summer in Washington, D.C. as an intern at NPR's Morning Edition. Following that, she was a reporter/All Things Considered Host at WXXI in Rochester, NY. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Deanna was the local All Things Considered host for KUNC in northern Colorado. In her spare time, Deanna enjoys watching movies and TV shows on DVD (the Golden Girls and Little House on the Prairie are among her favorites), bicycling, yard work, and reading.