Schreiber: Bills would let police remove pets from hot cars


A York County lawmaker joined two other legislators on Tuesday to unveil a set of bills they say is aimed at stopping the practice of pet owners leaving animals in unattended cars.

"It would seem we don't need legislation to do this. This should be common sense," Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said during a news conference at the Humane Society of Harrisburg. "Unfortunately it's not."

Schreiber was joined by Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Perry/Dauphin counties, and Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks County, in unveiling the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, Senate Bill 977, and its companion bill, House Bill 1516.

Pets left in unattended cars are particularly in danger during the hotter months when the temperature in a car can skyrocket. On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car can hit 114 degrees in 30 minutes, and pets left in hot cars face organ damage, heat stroke, brain damage and, in some cases, death, the lawmakers said.

What it does: The bills directly state police officers, public safety professionals and humane officers can remove endangered animals from an unattended vehicle, even if it means breaking out a car's window.

It would also require the the animal be taken to a veterinarian for a health screening or treatment.

Information, including how to contact the officer and where the pet was taken, must be left for the owner.

An officer can't be held liable for damage done to a car while trying to get the animal out, leaving the pet owner on the hook to pay for the damage, according to lawmakers.

The pet owner could take another hit to his or her wallet in the form of a summary offense, which equates to a traffic citation.

On the books: York County authorities said some aspects of the proposal are already covered by the animal cruelty law.

"If we thought there's a dog in danger, we can forcefully enter a vehicle," Lt. Tony Beam of Springettsbury Township Police said.

Officers also can cite a pet owner with a summary offense, said Sgt. Peter Montgomery of York Area Regional Police.

"I just believe they (lawmakers) are being more specific ... because animal cruelty is becoming more common," he said.

In a phone interview, Schreiber said part of the aim of the bill is to increase education on the issue. The liability aspect is something that isn't addressed in current animal cruelty laws, he added.

Montgomery and Beam said their departments receive calls about pets left in vehicles, but it's not a daily occurrence.

In some cases, the pet isn't in distress, but the officer waits for the owner to return and provides him or her with information about the dangers of leaving an animal in a locked car, Beam said.

Though Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA, pointed out authorities are already granted the power to rescue animals in such circumstances, she added leaving pets in vehicles is an issue that must be addressed.

"Anything that helps animals in the state of Pennsylvania I'm obviously for," she said.