By Bob Katzen
A new law that prohibits persons from leaving their pet in a car when high or low temperatures could endanger the animal’s health and safety went into effect on November 17. Violators will be hit with up to a $150 fine for a first offense, $300 for a second offense and $500 for any subsequent offense. The law also leaves open the possibility of criminal animal cruelty charges being brought against the offender in the most egregious cases.
It also allows law enforcement officers, after making reasonable efforts to locate the motor vehicle’s owner, to enter a motor vehicle by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal. It extends a similar right to ordinary citizens and makes them immune from criminal or civil liability that might result from the removal.
Other provisions prohibit leaving a dog outdoors during harsh weather conditions and prohibit a dog from being chained or tethered outside for more than five hours per day or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. for more than 15 minutes. Violations under the tethering law include penalties of up to $500 or relinquishment of ownership of the dog.
The bill’s chief sponsor Sen. Marc Montigny (D-New Bedford) said, “[This] comes just in time to protect our beloved pets from harsh winter conditions. If you see an animal in distress, call 911 and break the window. We cannot afford to simply stand by while an innocent animal suffers. I hope this announcement will remind the public and pet owners of our obligation to protect vulnerable animals.”