Humane Transport of Animals and SB 1806 by Ed Boks

Every year animals die due to inappropriate transportation methods by air and car. The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services recommends that animals not be transported during extremely warm or cold temperatures. When necessary to do so, appropriate measures must be taken to ensure the health and well-being of the animal.

When traveling by air, only reputable airlines that have a written policy on animal transportation should be used. Transportation should be scheduled when ambient temperatures are more likely to be within animal health and safety margins. When traveling by car, an animal should be confined within a crate or restrained with a seatbelt. No animal should be transported in the back of a pick up truck or allowed to hang out of a window without being secured. It is cruel and inhumane to keep an animal in a parked vehicle without air-conditioning for any amount of time when outside temperatures represent a risk to the health and well-being of the animal.

In keeping with this position, LA Animal Services worked with Senator Liz Figueroa and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine on Senate Bill 1806. Thanks to the hard work of LA Animal Services’ staff and the tireless efforts of LA Animal Services’ volunteer Judie Mancuso, it appears this life saving legislation will soon become state law with broad bi-partisan support.

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle ran the following article on the successful passage of this legislation so far:

Bill on leaving pets in cars goes to governor
Measure makes it a crime to subject animals to the heat

08-15) 04:00 PDT Sacramento — Attention pet owners. You might want to think twice before you leave your pooch in the car on a warm day while you run into the store for a few minutes.

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a state Senate bill headed for his desk, it will be a crime to leave pets in unattended cars under conditions that pose a danger to the animals.

The Assembly on Monday gave a 64-7 thumbs up to pass SB1806 written by State Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, that also seeks to impose a fine of up to $500 and as much as six months in jail.

But perhaps more importantly, the legislation would empower animal control officers to remove pets in distress even if it means breaking the window of a car to gain access.

“We hear incidents (about pets dying in locked cars) just about every summer, and you’ve all seen dogs left thoughtlessly in the car. This is not to just punish those who are offending, but to save the animals,” said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-San Fernando Valley, who presented the bill Monday.

However, actually breaking into a car to save an animal will be the last resort, said Ed Boks, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, the bill’s chief supporter. Animal control officers will first try to locate the owner and then try picking the lock to open the car door, he said.

Nevertheless, under the existing law, forcibly gaining entry into a vehicle is illegal for animal control officers, so they must call police to do it, Boks said. In many cases, by the time police officers arrive, it’s too late, he added.

There are no statewide statistics on how many pets die each summer, Boks said. However, animal-control agencies across the state get many calls every summer, especially when a heat wave sets in, he said.

But Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Riverside, argued that existing laws against cruelty to animals are sufficient.

“This is criminalizing negligent behavior,” he said. “If you intentionally leave an animal in a locked car on a hot day to endanger it, then we already have cruelty to animals laws. But if we’re just talking about leaving your dog in a car for a few minutes, that’s just negligence.”

But Boks said too often pet owners horribly underestimate the amount of time they think they’ll spend running an errand while their animal is in the car.

“You go into the store thinking you’re just going to buy a gallon of milk, but you run into your friend, have a chat, and it ends up being 15 to 20 minutes,” he said.

Boks said most healthy pets could not withstand much more than a few minutes of 107 degrees body heat before suffering brain damage or death.

The LA Times ran the following article today:

State Assembly Approves Bill Aimed at Saving Pets
Measure would make it a crime to endanger animals by leaving them in locked vehicles.

SACRAMENTO — People who endanger their pets by leaving them in cars could face up to six months in jail under legislation approved Monday by the state Assembly.

The measure would bar people from leaving or confining an animal in an unattended motor vehicle with conditions that could lead to suffering, injury or death. Those conditions could include lack of ventilation, extreme hot or cold weather or an absence of food or water.

First offenders could be fined up to $100 if the animal is unharmed, and as much as $500 and half a year in county jail if the pet incurs “great bodily injury.” Repeat violators would face the more stringent punishment regardless of whether an animal was hurt.

The legislation notes that even when vehicle windows are left slightly open, a car’s interior can heat to as much as 102 degrees within 10 minutes on an 85-degree day. Even a dog in good health can only withstand a body temperature of 107 or 108 degrees for a brief period before suffering brain damage or death, the legislation states.

The bill would allow a police officer, humane officer or animal control officer to remove an animal from a vehicle if they believe it is at risk. It would then be taken to a shelter or veterinary hospital, and the owner could not reclaim it until after paying all costs associated with its care.

The measure, SB 1806, sponsored by state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), passed the Assembly, 64 to 7. It previously was approved by the Senate, 31 to 3. Before being sent to the governor, the measure will return to the Senate for final approval of amendments added by the Assembly.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill.