Did you know a person leaving any animal unattended in a car or enclosed space during extreme heat or cold may be guilty of a Class 2 civil infraction, in addition to a charge of animal cruelty? RCW 16.52.340.
How hot is too hot
When temperatures outside reach 70°F, your car becomes a sauna for your pet. Within minutes, temperatures inside the car can reach over 105°F, even with windows partly open. At those temperatures, your, pets’ bodies cannot cool down fast enough, making them susceptible to heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include excessive panting, drooling, weakness, and in more serious cases organ failure, seizures, and even death.
Dehydration is another consequence of pets being left in hot cars. This occurs when an animal is unable to replace lost body fluids (water and electrolytes) that are essential for healthy functioning. Dehydration can quickly become a medical emergency and contribute to heatstroke.
What are some of the criminal and civil penalties for leaving a pet in a vehicle?
Animal Cruelty – First Degree
Pursuant to RCW 16.52.205, a person is guilty of animal cruelty in the first degree when, except as authorized by law or as provided in (c) of this subsection, he or she, with criminal negligence, starves, dehydrates, or suffocates an animal, or exposes an animal to excessive heat or cold and as a result causes: (i) Substantial and unjustifiable physical pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering; or (ii) death.(b) Animal cruelty in the first degree is a class C felony.
Animal Cruelty – Second Degree
Pursuant to RCW 16.52.207, a person is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty: The person knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence inflicts unnecessary suffering or pain upon an animal. An owner of an animal is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the owner knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence:(a) Fails to provide the animal with necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention and the animal suffers unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as a result of the failure; or(b) Abandons the animal.(3) Animal cruelty in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor.
Leave or confine any animal in unattended motor vehicle
(1) It is a class 2 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120 to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water.
(2) To protect the health and safety of an animal, an animal control officer or law enforcement officer who reasonably believes that an animal is suffering or is likely to suffer harm from exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water is authorized to enter a vehicle or enclosed space to remove an animal by any means reasonable under the circumstances if no other person is present in the immediate area who has access to the vehicle or enclosed space and who will immediately remove the animal. An animal control officer, law enforcement officer, or the department or agency employing such an officer is not liable for any damage to property resulting from actions taken under this section.
(3) Nothing in this section prevents the person who has confined the animal in the vehicle or enclosed space from being convicted of separate offenses for animal cruelty under RCW 16.52.205 or 16.52.207.
Law Enforcement Intervention
To protect the health and safety of an animal, a law enforcement officer who reasonably believes that an animal is suffering or is likely to suffer harm is authorized to enter a vehicle or enclosed space to remove an animal by any means reasonable under the circumstances.
Be kind to your pets.
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