Depending on which calendar you choose to follow we‚Äôre either in the Dog Days of Summer or they‚Äôre fast approaching, in any case it‚Äôs getting to be pretty darned hot out there. In the news lately have been several reportings of both dogs and kids left in cars, in the hot sun, windows up, and fatalities ensued.
There is a case in Georgia of a father who left his 2-year-old son in the car, in the sun, came back at lunch to put something in the car, didn‚Äôt notice his son, and returned 5 hours later, still didn‚Äôt notice his son, and then drove off, and only THEN realized his son was in the car and had died. Now I don‚Äôt have a child. I‚Äôm not this man‚Äôs attorney, and I am by no means infallible, however, there seems to me to be something very wrong with his story.
I am highly doubtful about many elements of his explanations. I just don‚Äôt believe this story of his returning to the car, and not noticing his kid in the car seat. Don‚Äôt children‚Äôs diapers usually get stinky after about three hours and need to be changed?
Wouldn‚Äôt most parents when they returned to a car reflexively look at the car seat? I don‚Äôt know. I do know my own experience at living with a dog who goes with me almost everywhere.
My dog has a booster seat in the back of my car behind the passenger‚Äôs seat. I look at that seat, even when I know I don‚Äôt have my dog with me, automatically. It‚Äôs such an engrained behavior at this point that I would have to consciously work very hard to not look.
When you care for another living creature, you learn to do certain things as a safety measure. For example, when I put the rear window up by my dog‚Äôs booster seat, I always do a visual check by turning my head to make sure he hasn‚Äôt stuck his head out of the window. The thought that I could put the window up and catch him in it is so horrific to me that I always look back before pulling the switch.
The other thing I do, is park in covered parking lots. I appear in courts all around the southland, from Ventura to San Diego. I know which courts have covered parking and which ones don‚Äôt. I love going to court in Ventura – that beautiful morning drive up the coast is relaxing and enjoyable – but they don‚Äôt have a safe place for me to park and leave my dog in the car – so he either stays home or goes to daycare.
Around town it‚Äôs the same thing. He‚Äôll come with me when I go to Promenade, and the gym, but if I don‚Äôt know of a safe place that is shaded for me to park, he‚Äôs not going.
I‚Äôm a bit of a fanatic perhaps. I wouldn‚Äôt think twice of breaking someone‚Äôs window if they left their dog in the car and he was in crisis – the same way I wouldn‚Äôt think twice if it was a child. If I see your dog in your car, and they‚Äôre panting heavily, the windows are up, and the sun is out, you‚Äôll probably be buying a window and talking to the cops about animal cruelty charges.
California Penal Code ¬ß597.7 defines the crime of animal cruelty as when you “Leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”
This summer let‚Äôs all be a little more alert out there. The weather is heating up and we can all be a bit more aware of our surroundings. If you see an animal in a car that is overheating, do something. Call the police – they‚Äôre empowered to take custody of the dog and will do all necessary measures, if you don‚Äôt want to break the window yourself.
If your dog is with you like mine, be more mindful that they can overheat quickly in a car that‚Äôs in the sun. Think about your trip, plan your parking, and you‚Äôll find that it quickly becomes an easy habit.
Do it for you, do it for the dogs.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father‚Äôs and Men‚Äôs Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.¬† He welcomes your questions and comments.¬† He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.