You probably already know that you shouldn’t leave your dog locked in a car on a hot summer day, but many people still wonder is leaving your dog in a hot car a crime? In fact, leaving your pooch (or other pet) in the vehicle can result in your car window getting smashed, your losing custody of your pet and a fine. If the animal actually suffers great bodily injury, you can actually be charged with a misdemeanor as well. Here’s what you should know courtesy of Vista animal abuse attorney Peter M. Liss.
Is Leaving Your Dog in a Hot Car a Crime?
In California, not only is leaving your dog in a hot car a crime, it is also against the law to leave your pet in the car in any way that could cause him or her to suffer great bodily harm, including not leaving any ventilation, leaving them for a prolonged period in a car without fresh food or water or leaving him or her in the car during weather that is too hot or too cold. Note that even when the weather seems a pleasant 80 degrees outside and the windows have been cracked, the temperature inside a vehicle can quickly climb over 100, so this can still be a crime.
Smashing Someone’s Window to Save An Animal is Legal
Both an emergency worker and a private citizen can break open your window to save an animal if the creature is in imminent danger. In California, this usually occurs when a dog or other pet has been locked inside of a car on a hot day. That being said, in order for a private citizen to be legally protected by this law, he must call the police first to let them know about the situation and see if the officers have any other advice to allow him to help the animal without causing property damage.
Legal Penalties for Leaving Your Dog in a Hot Car
Since leaving your dog in a hot car is a crime, if you leave your dog unattended in a vehicle, you might not just be left with a broken window and the loss of your pet, you might also face criminal charges. A first time offense that does not result in great bodily injury of the animal will only carry a $100 fine per animal.
If the incident does result in your pet suffering great bodily harm or if you have a prior conviction though, you could face a $500 fine and up to six months in prison. In addition, some people charged with this crime will also face charges for the more serious offense of animal cruelty, which can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony regardless of whether it was committed through malicious acts or neglect. Your Vista animal abuse attorney may be able to have additional charges dropped in these cases.
Fighting the Charges with a Vista Animal Abuse Attorney
Fortunately, there are defenses to this crime. Because the law requires the animal to be at risk of harm, the most common defense involves arguing that the animal was never in real danger. For example, while your car can become very hot and dangerous in the summer, leaving a dog in your car on a 65 degree day during the winter is not going to hurt her. Additionally, if you leave your pup in a temperature-controlled car without water, it is not a crime if he or she does not go long without water -for example, if it was only while you were in a grocery store.
Lastly, in the case of emergencies, your Vista animal abuse attorney could get the charges dropped. For example, if you only intended to leave your car to withdraw money from an ATM, but suffered a medical emergency that caused you to lose consciousness after exiting your car, you wouldn’t be legally responsible for leaving your pet in the car during that time.
If you have any questions about animal abuse charges, including leaving your pet in the car, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Vista animal abuse attorney Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Bjorn Laczay