BOSTON — Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) is reminding the public that leaving a pet locked inside a vehicle during hot summer temperatures is punishable by a fine and possibly felony animal cruelty charges based upon the severity of the case.

This latest plea comes just after Freetown Police had to smash a vehicle window to rescue a dog that was trapped inside a hot car for four hours.  The owner has been charged with one felony count of animal cruelty.

Even on cooler summer days where temperatures hover around 70 degrees, the interior of a vehicle can quickly heat up to 89-degrees in just 10 minutes and hit over 110 degrees soon thereafter.  Leaving a window cracked open does not eliminate the danger of heatstroke or death.

Senator Montigny led the push for legislation to prevent animal suffering and death, which explicitly prohibits leaving an animal trapped inside a hot car and provides civilians with the ability to free the animal in dangerous situations. Civilians and first responders who break into a vehicle to save a distressed animal are indemnified under the law.

“During the summertime there is no reason why a pet should be left inside a vehicle.  It doesn’t matter if it is just for one minute to run inside the store,” said Senator Montigny.

“Please just keep your pets safe at home, and if you see an animal in distress call 911 and smash the window if need be.”

Montigny says civilians who observe a trapped animal in distress can rescue the animal by following the following steps:

  1. Make a reasonable effort to locate the vehicle’s owner;
  2. Call 911 to report the animal in distress;
  3. Break the window or use the force necessary to free the animal;
  4. Remain with the animal in a safe location until first responders arrive.

Under the law, civilians cannot be held liable for damage caused to the vehicle for rescuing a distressed animal.

A violation of Montigny’s law is punishable by fines up to $500 and severe cruelty cases are subject to prosecution under the state’s animal cruelty law.  A conviction under the state animal cruelty law is subject to up to 7 years in state prison or 2 ½ years in a house of correction and/or a fine up to $5,000.