You probably already know that you shouldn’t leave your dog locked in a car on a hot summer day, but did you know it’s actually against the law as well? 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 defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
In California, it is 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, the temperature inside a vehicle can quickly climb over 100. Right now, any emergency crew can legally break a car window to rescue a potentially suffering animal trapped inside. The state legislature is even considering a law that will allow citizens to do the same as long as they contact a government agency first and then wait with the animal until the agency arrives.
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 criminal attorney may be able to have additional charges dropped in these cases.
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 him or 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 defense 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 defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Bjorn Laczay