Hot pets wrong

B.C. needs to make changes to Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

It seems some dog owners just don’t get it – leaving dogs or other pets unattended in locked cars with the sun beating down on them can be a recipe for disaster.

However, it’s happening all of the time throughout British Columbia.

In fact, the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) received more than 1,200 calls about animals being left in hot vehicles so far this summer.

It’s possible that we could experience hot temperatures in September, so those numbers will likely rise.

The number of distressed animals left in hot vehicles being reported to the BC SPCA so far this summer is already 100 more than the society received in all of 2014.

This is not just a big-city problem or the goings-on of movie stars that we read about in daily newspapers or are reported on national television.

This penchant for leaving animals in hot cars happens in every community of the province – where an owner leaves a pet stranded in a hot vehicle while he or she dashes out for a quick bit of shopping, to have a coffee or to do some banking.

Temperatures rise quickly in vehicles on warm, sunny days and could seriously impair a pet’s health, especially when there is no ventilation.

In fact, a mere 20 minutes in this situation could mean the difference between life and death for an animal.

When pet owners are caught abandoning their pets in this manner, they can be charged under B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

This act carries the toughest penalties in Canada after a few horrendous acts of cruelty to animals, including the culling of sled dogs after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Maximum penalties can reach $75,000 in fines and a two-year imprisonment.

The act also gives SPCA officers authority to enter locked vehicles to relieve animals from critical distress. There has been some discussion about allowing other enforcement officers to do the same thing.

More and more animal lovers are suggesting any passer-by should be allowed to break into a vehicle and rescue a distressed pet. This likely won’t happen due to liability issues.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberal government has decided to consult with the BC SPCA, the B.C. College of Veterinarians, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, municipal governments and police services to increase the options for rescuing animals that have been left in vehicles and are suffering heat-related distress.

The consultations will take place this summer and fall, and the provincial government will consider the options. If there are going to be changes or additional measures, it’s anticipated they would go into effect next spring.

Generally, we hope any changes will help clear up this animal cruelty problem.