|The Animals in Distress law (you may recognize as the “Hot Car Bill”), now Act 104 of 2018, authorizes public safety professionals to remove dogs and cats from unattended motor vehicles when the animal is deemed to be in imminent danger by any cause. For example, the law protects pets suffering effects from extreme temperatures (hot and cold), dehydration due to lack of water, and collar or leash entanglement. The Animals in Distress law now gives law enforcement officers, animal control officers, humane police officers, and emergency responders civil immunity from lawsuits if they must break into a vehicle to save a pet. Rescue officials must attempt to find the owner before breaking into a car, and they are required to leave a note explaining the situation and where the seized animal can be retrieved.
With the “dog days of summer” coming soon, the Humane Society of the United States is partnering with the PA AAA Federation and Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association (PVMA) to launch a two-pronged educational campaign. Firstly, to inform the general public about rapidly rising temperatures in car interiors during hot weather and the associated risks of terminal dehydration and heat stroke. Secondly, to advise the public about the new policy and tell them what to do if they encounter a pet in trouble.
The 8.5×11 sheet flyer can be easily printed from here and it is a quick reference about the Animals in Distress law – the purpose of it and the need for it. We ask for your assistance in advertising the law by sharing the flyer with your network and members and via social media. Also, please print copies and distribute to public offices, businesses, community centers, etc. in your local area and ask them to display prominently. Grocery stores and shopping center parking lots are common places where people leave their pet locked in the car while they shop.
We need to get the message out that distressed animals require immediate action as they are at risk of lethal conditions such as dehydration, heatstroke, and hypothermia when exposed to extreme temperatures while trapped in cars. Any witness to an animal in distress should call 911. If possible, the person calling authorities should stay with the vehicle until responders arrive. They can help by writing down the date and time, location, make and model of the vehicle and license plate number, and description of the distressed/endangered animal. If the owner appears before public responders arrive, do not confront; but rather write down the time and a description of the individual. This information will help authorities conduct a follow-up investigation.
The PA State Police Facebook page is another resource for related information. You can share this Facebook link and Tweet with people using social media of Trooper Brent Miller giving instructions on what to do when finding a dog or cat suffering in a locked car.
Passing HB 1216 into law was a great victory for our state’s animals. It happened because of the time and work you put into campaigning for it. It will spare animals and their owners from avoidable undue pain, suffering, and death. As always, thanks for your continued energy to protect the animals of Pennsylvania!