Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Is it Illegal to Leave a Dog Unattended in the Car?
About 31 states in the U.S. have laws that make it a crime for a person to leave an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions (such as extreme hot or cold temperatures or lack of ventilation). Some of these states include Arizona, California, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, and New York. Depending on the state, a violation of these laws could lead to misdemeanor charges.1
Even if a state does not have one of these laws, it is possible that a person could still be charged with a crime for leaving a dog in an unattended vehicle under a state animal abuse and animal cruelty law.
Note that some states have laws that allow persons to rescue animals that are confined in a parked vehicle under hazardous conditions. These persons may include police officers and firefighters. Some states even say that any person can rescue an animal.
Under California law, Penal Code 597.7 PC makes it a crime for a person to leave a dog in an unattended motor vehicle if the conditions would endanger the animal’s health or well-being. Relevant considerations include the:
The majority of U.S. states have laws in place that prohibit pet owners from:
Some of the states with these laws include:
Some state laws specifically declare that the following conditions “endanger” an animal’s life:
Other laws only state that a pet cannot be left in a vehicle if conditions pose:
Further, some state laws only protect dogs and cats while others protect a broader category of “animals.”5
The penalties for violating these laws vary by state. Some states say a violation is an infraction that is punishable by a fine. Most states say a violation is charged as a misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine and/or jail time.
Note that animal abuse and cruelty laws make it a crime for a person to maliciously harm an animal. This means that a person could be charged under these laws in the event he/she:
Note too, that with regards to temperatures, even a moderately warm outside temperature such as 72 degrees Fahrenheit can quickly escalate inside a car and threaten an animal’s body temperature. Further, even when the windows are slightly cracked on a hot day, temperatures inside a car can reach 102 degrees within ten minutes and 120 degrees within half an hour.
Some states have laws that allow persons to rescue animals that are confined in a parked vehicle under dangerous conditions.
Some states, though, say only the following persons can perform such a rescue:
Other states (about 15) have good Samaritan laws that allow any person to rescue an animal if it is suffering from life-threatening conditions in a car.
Penal Code 597.7 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to:
The law states that the following conditions may endanger an animal:
Further, the law is not limited to just dogs and cats. It applies to “an animal.”8
If a person violates PC 597.7, and the animal does not suffer great bodily injury, then he/she is charged with an infraction and must pay a $100 fine.9
A violation of the law that results in great bodily injury to the animal is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
Note that this California statute also sets forth laws on animal rescue. These law state that:
This danger can come from:
Pet owners should consider doing some of the following when leaving their animals in a parked vehicle:
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The animal cruelty law Nevada Revised Statute 202.487 makes it a misdemeanor to “allow a pet to remain unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle if conditions, including, without limitation, extreme heat or cold, present a significant risk to the health and safety of the pet.” Penalties include up to 6 months in jail ...