Pets in Hot Cars: What Does Montana Law Say?
The first official day of summer is right around the corner (June 20) and temperatures are rising. The weatherman is saying we're headed to another round of mid '90s this weekend and it won't be long until we start pushing triple digits.
You may love summer heat or you might hate it, but one thing everyone hates is seeing dogs locked in hot cars. Barkpost.com says that on average 38 children die from being left in a hot car annually and HUNDREDS of dogs die each year from heat strokes after being left in vehicles. Even with windows cracked, dogs can perish in as little as 15 minutes if temperatures are too high.
An article published by Michigan State University says "31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle." I reached out to Billings Police Animal Control for clarification on the Montana statute regarding pets in cars. A representative told me that while Montana does not have a specific law regarding pets left in vehicles, the issue falls under the Montana animal cruelty law 45-8-211, which reads (in part):
45-8-211. Cruelty to animals -- exceptions. (1) A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if, without justification, the person knowingly or negligently subjects an animal to mistreatment or neglect by:
(a) overworking, beating, tormenting, torturing, injuring, or killing the animal;
(b) carrying or confining the animal in a cruel manner;
(c) failing to provide an animal in the person's custody with:
(i) food and water of sufficient quantity and quality to sustain the animal's normal health;
(ii) minimum protection for the animal from adverse weather conditions, with consideration given to the species;
(iii) in cases of immediate, obvious, serious illness or injury, licensed veterinary or other appropriate medical care;
The person I spoke with at animal control said they receive hundreds of calls each year (and they've already begun) regarding pets left in hot cars and they do write tickets. The first offense is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000. So, is it okay for you to break a window on a car if you see an animal trapped in the heat? I was referred to the above legal code and told that if you believe the animal is imminent danger, then yes. Always consult an attorney regarding any legal advice.