For most of us, it's unimaginable to think of leaving our dogs out in extreme cold or heat. Unfortunately, the myth that dogs are less susceptible to extreme temperatures remains a persistent one, and millions of dogs are left outside all year, often without adequate shelter for the conditions. A growing awareness of this form of suffering is prompting authorities in some jurisdictions to amend their animal neglect laws.
Animal welfare laws vary significantly depending on the location, so it's a good idea to look up your local laws if you think there may be animals suffering in your area. While not all areas have laws specifically addressing weather conditions, leaving dogs out in extreme conditions without adequate protection can be considered neglect in all states. If you find that there are no laws prohibiting leaving dogs exposed to harsh weather, consider proposing one yourself. Farmer City, Illinois, passed a law on the matter at the suggestion of a concerned citizen.
If you do see an animal outside with inadequate shelter or locked in a hot car, start by taking down all relevant information, such as the address or make, model and license plate number of the vehicle. Try to locate the owner. Sometimes people only need a little bit of education about the dangers of leaving dogs in extreme temperatures. If the dog is locked in a car, ask the employees in nearby businesses to page the owner.
If all else fails, call the police and wait on the scene until the officers arrive. Do not leave the dog alone, and monitor it for signs of heatstroke. Contrary to popular belief, it is generally illegal to break a window to get a dog out of a hot car. It is also dangerous, as the dog may perceive you as a threat or the breaking glass may injure you or the dog. However, if the situation is serious enough that urgent action is necessary, the authorities may decline to prosecute you. Be aware that criminal charges are a risk if you proceed.
Dogs suffering in extreme weather is a common but preventable problem. Visit this page to sign a pledge in support of more awareness for the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars.
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