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Joplin proposed law would clarify rescuing pets from inside hot - KOAM TV 7

Joplin proposed law would clarify rescuing pets from inside hot vehicles

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Joplin's city council is meeting tonight to discuss, among other issues, a proposed clarification to a law that's already being enforced.  The law deals with how and when a pet can be rescued when it is in distress.  But city officials want this law to be more specific for summer dangers.

What would you do if you saw an animal inside a vehicle, windows up, with outside hot temperatures?

"I think somebody should break into it (vehicle)," says Rick Simmons.  "Either a policeman or animal control, or somebody."

"I'd probably call 911," says Inez Friend.

Emergency dispatchers send out animal control, and most of the time the pet's owner comes back to their vehicle and drives away before an animal control officer arrives.  But there's still a problem worth barking out.

"That's just almost as bad as leaving a kid in the car," says Simmons.

"I'd sure want them to break-in if it was a child," says Friend.

There already is a law in Joplin that police and animal control officers can break into public and private property to rescue a pet in distress.  But this new proposed law would be more specific, outright saying police and animal control officers can break into vehicles if a pet is in distress because of hot temperatures.

"This just clarifies the act that we can enter a vehicle," says Dan Pekarek with Joplin's Animal Control Department.

"All of us animal welfare people tend to be very emotional when it comes to animals," says Lysa Boston with Joplin's Animal Adoption and Resource Center.

Boston says it'll be important for people to remember they will still have to call police or animal control to get a distressed animal out of a hot vehicle.  

So what's the point of this new law in the first place?

"We're going to rely on the media for this," says Pekarek.

Animal control officers hope a new, specific law draws more, specific attention, decreasing animal well-being checks.

"If you're going to be running in the store, you may get caught up in line and it's hot outside and nobody is going to wait in the car with the dog, leave the dog at home," says Boston.

Pekarek says his officers will be looking for these signs when they see an animal inside a vehicle on a hot day:  "...the animal is panting really hard, drooling, is lethargic, that's going to be a give away.  Throwing up, other things. If it gets to that stage, its really bad. But they're going to be looking for symptoms that seem to  indicate that the animal is in distress."

The proposed new rule does not include a list of temperatures for when pets cannot be left inside a vehicle.  The proposed law leaves it up to the discretion of police and animal control officers to decide if a pet is in distress.

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