John writes: 

"I have looked online for Dog "laws" on leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle. I found nothing for Florida, Lee County or Cape Coral. Are there really laws on leaving a dog unattended to go into a store real quick? Most stores do not allow a dog into the store, so leaving the dog at home, of course is the simple option, but taking it into the store is not always an option. Leaving the dog in the car with the windows down parked in a shade for 10 minutes (maximum) seems like not a big deal. I recently had an argument with a "dog lover" who feels it's illegal to leave the car in the car regardless of circumstances. Would love to hear the LEGAL answer to this."

Thank you for the question, John.  The short answer is “it depends.” The longer answer is that we have to look at it on a case-by-case basis and determine if there is a violation of the law.  Here is what the law says:

 

“828.12 Cruelty to animals.—
(1) A person who unnecessarily overloads, overdrives, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, or unnecessarily mutilates, or kills any animal, or causes the same to be done, or carries in or upon any vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhumane manner, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
(2) A person who intentionally commits an act to any animal which results in the cruel death, or excessive or repeated infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering, or causes the same to be done, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or by a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.”

 

If you leave a dog parked in a hot car you could face animal cruelty charges.  Every year, we get dispatched to a calls where dog owner has gone into a store “just for a minute,” only for us to find that it was more like 15-30 minutes (or more) and the dog is in distress.  Sometimes, its no big deal and the dog is fine.  Sometimes, it’s a citation.  Sometimes it’s a broken window, towed car, having the dog seized by Lee County Animal Control and a trip to Lee County Jail.  It depends on the totality of the circumstances- temperature, apparent condition of the animal, if the owner can be located quickly, etc..

The fact of the matter is that with summertime temperatures soaring into the 90s here in Florida and temperatures exceeding 130 degrees inside a parked car in only a few minutes, a parked car without AC is no place for your pet. When the temperatures cool off here in November, that’s one thing.  But this time of year, it’s still way too hot.  If you aren’t going to a pet-friendly business, leave Fido at home.  Part of responsible pet ownership is making sure that your animal is safe both at home, and when you take them out and about.  That means planning your day trips and making accommodations for your pet, accordingly.  

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