July 3, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
The message couldn’t be clearer — In order to protect your pets’ well-being and safety, don’t leave them in parked cars during extreme cold or heat. In fact, a Massachusetts animal welfare law enacted in 2016 prohibits confining pets inside cars during weather extremes.
According to Hingham Police Sgt. Steven Dearth, the Department has received several calls recently about pets left inside vehicles. “In most cases the car had already left when we arrived, the dogs Inside were fine, or the owner returned while we were there,” he said.
An incident last Saturday in the South Street CVS parking lot drew the attention of a passerby, who observed a dog inside a car with three windows down two inches or so and a partially-open sunroof in 80-degree temperatures.
“In this case, when the officer arrived the dog appeared to be [okay], and the owners returned to their vehicle,” Dearth said. “It appears from reading the log notes that the dog was fine.”
Hingham police officers “all know the laws and protocols and do an amazing job handling these kinds of calls if I’m not on duty and will call me if the situation is serious enough for me to come in,” Animal Control Officer Leslie Badger said.
Temperatures inside cars with poor ventilation — and in some cases even with good ventilation — rise quickly, often to a temperature much higher than what it is outside the vehicle.
With the passage of the 2016 law, Massachusetts joined at that time 22 states instituting legislation regarding animals confined in parked vehicles. The Act — St. 2016, c. 248 An Act Preventing Animal Suffering and Death — prohibits pet owners from leaving animals inside vehicles during extreme cold or heat — when temperatures inside a car can exceed levels outside the vehicle -– or in conditions “that pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the dog.”
A bystander, in addition to animal control and law enforcement officials and firefighters, may enter the vehicle if “reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal.”
Any action by a person or first responder should follow checking to see if the door of the vehicle is locked, calling 911, and making an effort to locate the owner. The person must stay with the animal until law enforcement arrives and is immune from liability resulting from the animal’s removal, according to the 2016 law.
The Act also prohibits dogs being tethered outdoors for more than 15 minutes during a weather advisory or watch issued by a federal, state, or municipal agency as well as extreme weather conditions. Additional restrictions were placed on dog tethering “for longer than five hours in a 24-hour period and outside from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., unless the tethering is for not more than 15 minutes and the dog is not left unattended by the owner, guardian, or keeper.”