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Southwick to Vote on Proposed Fine for Pets Left in Cars

Pets in cars

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (WGGB) — We all know the dangers of leaving a pet, say a dog, inside of a car during the summer.

Even with the windows cracked, the inside of a vehicle can be 20 or more degrees hotter than the outside temp.

That’s why Southwick Animal Control officer Tracy Root was instrumental in crafting one of the towns newest bylaws. It would give animal control officers the ability to fine a pet owner for leaving an animal inside of a hot car.

“We are going to give a written warning first, said Root. “And then they will have a $50 fine if they are ever caught again.”

But Root says it’s also important to remember the exact opposite in the winter – that your pets can freeze when left alone in a car. And while that danger isn’t anywhere near as pronounced as summer overheating… it should still be something to keep in mind

“Inside a vehicle the animal is protected so anything below freezing inside a vehicle is going to be a danger to the animal, “ said Root. She’s quick to point out that some animals are more vulnerable to the cold than others, especially ones that are small and short-haired.

Right now, there’s no movement to enact a winter fine for pets left in cold cars but that’s not to say the law doesn’t protect animals when the snow flies and the temps drop.

There are broad animal cruelty laws that –while intended for worse case scenarios – could be used to prosecute a negligent pet owner.

“It’s a federal offense,” warned Root. “It’s a felony. It’s 5 years in a state prison or 2 and a half years in the correction with a $2500 fine.”

The town will vote on the animal protection bylaw at the annual town meeting this spring. Root hopes to have it in place in time for summer.

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