Signed into law recently by the governor, legislation passed by the General Assembly will make it a misdemeanor for any person to confine any animal in a motor vehicle which places the animal in a life threatening or extreme health threatening situation by exposing the animal to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from the extreme temperature.
In a recently published article, Lindsay Pollard-Post of the PETA Foundation wrote that “leaving a dog or any living being in a parked car on a warm day isn’t much different from putting him or her in a hot oven. On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 120 degrees in minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.”
Introduced in the Senate by Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, Providence, North Providence) and in the House by Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), the legislation (2014-S 2312A and 2014-H 7496A) took immediate effect with the governor’s signature.
As provided by the new law, any animal control officer, law enforcement officer or firefighter who has probably cause to believe this section of the law is being violated and in order to protect the health and safety of an animal will have the authority to enter a motor vehicle by any reasonable means necessary, after making an effort to locate the owner of the vehicle.
The animal control officer, law enforcement officer or firefighter rescuing a pet from a motor vehicle will be required to leave a note listing the location where the animal has been retrieved, and the owner will be allowed to retrieve the animal after payment of all charges that have been accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal.
Any misdemeanor charge filed as a result of such an incident will carry a punishment of imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
“Trapped in a steaming car with only hot air to breathe,” wrote Pollard-Post of PETA, “dogs can suffer heatstroke in just 15 minutes, resulting in brain damage or death. … When temperatures warm up, no amount of time in a parked car is safe for dogs.”