Leaving dog in car can bring legal trouble

Summer » If air in vehicle is hot, a dog can't cool itself
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If you think leaving a dog in a car this summer -- even for just a few minutes -- is no big deal, consider this: a $1,000 fine, six months in jail and a broken window.

That's what could await if Salt Lake County Animals Services has to rescue your distressed animal from a hot vehicle.

"Even if the windows are down a little bit or cracked a little bit, the temperature in the vehicle goes up really quick," said Capt. Shon Hardy, field operations manager for Salt Lake County Animal Services.

Hardy said reports of animals in vehicles increase with the daytime temperature. If Animal Services finds a distressed animal in the car, they will break a window to rescue it. Owners could face a cruelty charge, which is a class B misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.

"I think people were a lot less likely to call in the past, and we had a lot more cases where it got to the point where dogs were dying," he said. "I think we're getting there before we actually get the animals in distress and dying."

If the vehicle and animal are already gone when officers arrive, they may send out a mailer to let the owner know about summer safety.

Hardy said dogs are the most common animal left in the car. Dogs cool themselves by panting to exhale heat and inhale cooler air, but when the air in a vehicle is hot, the dog can't cool down. In as few as five minutes, distress could set in, Hardy said.

For people who find a dog in distress, the best thing to do is to start cooling them immediately. Hardy recommends running cold water on them and getting them to a well-ventilated area so they can inhale cooler air.