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Animals and Hot Cars Don’t Mix

by Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association

May 30, 2019

Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvanians are gearing up for the hot and hazy days of summer. With the hot weather just around the corner, animals will have an extra level of protection from the extreme heat of cars this year. Owners are always encouraged to keep their animals safe and away from hot cars while unattended. This will be the first summer, however, that animals will have a new law that empowers law enforcement agencies to save them if owners fall short of their care responsibilities.

In October of last year, Gov. Wolf signed into law The Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, which allows law enforcement officers to break into an unattended vehicle to rescue an animal left alone, if they believe the animal to be in imminent danger, after a reasonable search for the car owner. “Research has shown that the internal vehicle temperature can rise thirty-five degrees in as little as a half hour when outside temperatures approach one hundred degrees,” according to Christian D. Malesic, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association. “Rising temperatures, humidity, and stagnant air flow causes a greenhouse effect quickly placing the lives of animals in danger if not removed from the adverse conditions.”

Act 104 of 2018, formerly known as ‘The Hot Car Bill’, provides legal authority with civil immunity to animal control and humane officers, emergency responders, and law enforcement officers who remove unattended animals from vehicles when they’re in danger from heat or cold. “The law protects animals in the heat of the summer, but also in the cold of the winter,” Malesic explains. “In fact, any animal in distress can be rescued under the protection of this law during any season, even for issues such as being tangled in their leash or having their head stuck in a cracked-open window.” In addition to making a reasonable effort to find the vehicle owner prior to entering the vehicle, the person who performed the rescue must leave a note with contact information and the location at which the animal can be retrieved.

If you see an animal that may need help, call 911 and stay with the vehicle until they arrive. “Do not attempt to free the animal yourself,” cautions Malesic. “Although Act 104 gives immunity to law enforcement officers, it does not give immunity to you. So, the vehicle owner could take civil action against you for your actions. It is very important to note this is not a Good Samaritan law.”

The risk of an animal overheating is high and can become life-threatening quickly, especially as the thermometer begins to rise. Ensure your animal is always safe and attended to while transporting them across the Keystone state.

About the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA)

Founded in 1883, PVMA is PA’s only statewide professional membership organization for the veterinary profession representing over 3,400 veterinarians, certified veterinary technicians, assistants, practice managers, and other support staff. Our mission is to ensure the vitality of the profession by promoting excellence in veterinary medicine, advancing animal health and welfare, and protecting & enhancing human health. To learn more visit PaVMA.org.

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