What you need to know to help an animal in distress
The Animal Rescue League of Boston’s (ARL) Too Hot for Spot annual campaign kicks off this month, and this week we’re focusing on the law itself, and what you need to know in order to legally help an animal in distress.
S. 2369, An Act to Prevent Animal Suffering and Death, became law in November 2016, and prohibits pet owners from confining any animal in a motor vehicle when extreme heat or cold could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal. It also allows first responders and ordinary citizens to intervene, however, only by following certain protocols.
What can first responders do?
First responders – including Animal Control Officers (ACO), law enforcement officials, and firefighters – may, after making reasonable efforts to locate the motor vehicle’s owner, enter the vehicle by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of animals.
The entry must be for the sole purpose of assisting the animal. The responders may not search the vehicle or seize items unless otherwise permitted by the law. The first responder must leave a written notice with the officer or firefighter’s name, title, and the address of the location where the animal may be retrieved.
What can regular citizens like you do?
If a citizen finds an animal in a vehicle, the citizen must make reasonable efforts to locate the vehicle’s owner.
A citizen shall not enter a vehicle to protect an animal in immediate danger unless the citizen notifies law enforcement or calls 911 and determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit; does not use more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle and remove the animal; and has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry in to the vehicle is necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal.
What else does this new law include?
This new also amends the anti-tethering statute, which means that dogs cannot be:
- Tethered to a stationary object for longer than 5 hours in a 24-hour period
- Tethered outside from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., unless not for more than 15 minutes and when the owner, guardian, or keeper is present
- Confined outside when a weather advisory, warning, or watch is issued by local, state, or federal authorities; or when environmental conditions such as extreme heat, cold, rain, snow, or hail pose as adverse risk to health or safety of the dog, based upon the dog’s breed, age, or physical condition and unless tethered for less than 15 minutes.
Being Held Accountable
This legislation supports animal welfare so animals can find protection from cruel or abusive situations and those inflicting such behavior can be held accountable for their actions.
Officers, including law enforcement officers from ARL and MSPCA, have the authority to write warnings and citations for violations, with fines ranging from $50 for a first offense to $500 for subsequent offenses. Penalties may also include impoundment or loss of ownership of the animal.
Prevention is Responsible Pet Ownership
When the temperature rises, prevention is always your best bet. Whenever possible, leave your pet at home in a low humidity and temperature-controlled room. If your pet is outdoors, find a nice, shady spot, and keep a bowl of cold water accessible at all times. Remember, your animal depends on you, so it’s up to you to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.