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Leaving Animals in Dangerously Hot Cars Could Lead to Fines, Penalties

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. —  When temperatures outside your car reach 70 degrees the temperature of the air inside your car can quickly rise even higher.

That’s why Stafford County animal control officials are warning pet owners not to leave their animals locked inside their cars without air conditioning as the dog days of summer approach.

“As much as we all like to take our animals with us, we really caution them about taking them out this time of year. It’s really nice when the weather is nice but right now temperatures in a vehicle can climb over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes,” said Capt. Mike Null, with Stafford County Animal Control, a division of the county’s sheriff’s office.

Even with windows cracked, temperatures may not be cool enough for pets to be inside the car without air conditioning turned on. If they get too hot it can lead to heat stroke, brain damage, and death for the animal, he said.

Under Stafford County code, once the outside temperature reaches 70 degrees drivers must air condition their vehicles if they plan to leave a pet locked inside.

Often, 911 callers pick up their cell phones to report animals locked inside hot cars. Deputies sent to the scene will check the outside air temperature, and if it’s 70 degrees or higher the deputies monitor the animal, run the car’s license plate in an effort to find the animal’s owner, or call the establishment near where the car is parked to try to find the driver, said Null.

If that doesn’t work, sheriff’s deputies have special “forced entry” equipment that allow them to enter the car and remove the animal from the car or turn on the car’s air conditioning.

“Officers will pay immediate attention to the animal to see how long it has been in there, and if the animal is showing any kind of stress, are they lethargic,” said Null. “There are many things that we look for.”

In many cases the owners of the animals are found, and deputies most commonly issue misdemeanors to the pet owners which could lead to a $150 fine. If an animal has to be removed from a hot car an owner could face animal cruelty charges which could pack a much stiffer penalty.

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