West Virginia’s House of Delegates has passed a new bill that allows key individuals to break into a locked vehicle to rescue an animal trapped inside.
Firefighters, police officers, humane officers, and EMS personnel are among those permitted to intervene in cases where an animal is distressed or in danger.
It is illegal in the state to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle for long periods, and people who violate this law will be charged with a misdemeanor and receive a fine of between $300 and $2000, as well as the possibility of jail time.
“What we are doing with this bill is providing that certain individuals have the ability lawfully to enter into a vehicle where an unattended animal is in danger,” said Judiciary Vice-chair Moore Capito.
It’s incredibly dangerous to leave your animal in a vehicle even for a short time. Although you may think it’s not dangerously hot, the American Veterinary Medical Association warns that temperatures inside a car can increase much more rapidly than you realize; in only 10 minutes, the temperatures can shoot up by 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it’s 80 degrees outside, your dog could be suffering inside a 100 degree environment in your car within 10 minutes. Research shows that even cracking a window doesn’t make a noticeable difference.
Because dogs can’t sweat to release heat and only cool themselves down by panting, heatstroke can impact them in as little as 15 minutes, causing weakness, convulsions, vomiting, collapse, brain damage or death.
Around 28 states in the US have laws relating to animals left in vehicles. Many of these laws are similar to the new West Virginia bill, while about a dozen others grant civil immunity to any individual who rescues an at-risk animal from a vehicle.
If you come across an animal in distress locked in a vehicle, note down the license plate, make, and model of the car and try to get nearby stores to page the owner. If that fails, call 911 immediately and stay by the vehicle until help arrives.